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SEMIOTEXT (E) FOREIGN AGENTS SERIES 

Oiginally published in 1977 as “Vitesse et Politique,” £dition Galilee, Paris. 
Copyright © 1977 Paul Virilio 
Copyright © 2006 Semiotext(e) 

Translation © Serniotext(e) and Mark Polizzotti 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a 
retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photo- 
copying, recording, or otherwise, without prior permission of the publisher. 

Published by Semiotext(e) 

2007 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 427, Los Angeles, CA 90057 

www.semiotexte.com 

Special thanks to Nicholas Zurko and Mark Polizzotti. 

Cover: Map of Paris published in 1847 depicting Baron Georges Eugene 
Haussman’s plan to transform Paris into “the capital of capitals. In red are the 
networks of new streets and boulevards and in green are the parks. Courtesy 
of the New York City Public Library. 

Back Cover Photography: Sylvere Lotringer 
Design: Hedi El Kholti 

ISBN-10: 1-58435-040-7 
ISBN-13: 978-1-58435-040-8 

Distributed by The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass, and London, England 
Printed in the United States of America 


I 

I 





Translated by Marc Polizzotti 


<e> 


Contents 










Benjamin H. Bratton 


Logistics of Habitable Circulation 

A brief introduction to the 2006 edition of Speed and Politics 

If there had never been a war, I would have made a very 
good architect. 

— Ahmed Shah Masoud, Afghan opposition leader reportedly 
assassinated 9.9.01 by suicide bombers who were, it is 
assumed, trained by Osama Bin-Ladan on behalf of the Taliban, 
as quoted in the Los Angeles Times, the morning edition of 
September 1 1 , 2001 . 

PAUL VIRILIO’S MODERNITY is logistical. It doesn’t directly deal 
with war, but with everything that makes it possible. Logistics is 
the preparation for war through the transfer of the nation’s poten- 
tial to its armed forces in time of peace as in times of war . 1 
Modernity is a world in motion, expressed in translations of 
strategic space into logistical time, and back again. It is a history 
of cities, partitions, trading circuits, satellites, and software; of a 
political landscape governed by competing technologies of sur- 
veillance, mobilization, fortification and their interdependent 
administrations. It begins as an archaelogy of naval routes, strategic 
techniques and urban distributions, and becomes an integrated 
world of events reduced to shapes and symbols, viewed and 
manipulated instantaneously on screens. In Virilio’s narrative, 


7 


architectural regimes become computational, and vice versa. Both 
are logistical media for mobilization and its administration, tech- 
nologies that consolidate territory into logistical fields and enable a 
Modern governance based on the abstracted calculation over omni- 
directional spaces and surfaces, from open oceans to shared 
spreadsheets. This comprehensive technologization of the globe signals 
for Virilio both integration and disintegration, both control and 
accident. And it is finally through the accident, the realization of the 
imminent, irreducible risk that logistics hopes to contain, and not 
through control, that the strongest bonds of the polis are formed. For 
Virilio, they are an exceptional condition already contained within, 
and rigorously predicated by the invention that made them possible. 

In the 1960’s, Virilio collaborated with architect Claude 
Parent to develop a challenging program for an oblique architec- 
ture using inclined planes. It followed the principle of “habitable 
circulation,” intending to radically expand the usable surface of 
urban landscape. His work as a theorist from the mid-1970s to 
today can be seen as a retroactive thesis on the possibility of such 
an architecture, and an ultimate abandonment of it in the face of 
other emerging spatial media. “The focus of my research,” Virilio 
noted, “has shifted from topology to dromology, i.e., the study 
and analysis of the increasing speed of transport and communica- 
tions on the development of land- use.” 2 The image of the ‘polis’ 
(city) as a dynamic, vehicular landscape is both Virilio’s initial 
architectural solution and his eventual theoretical warning. “Dro- 
mology” (from Gr. dromos: race course) is this government of 
differential motility, of harnessing and mobilizing, incarcerating 
and accelerating things and people. His third book, Vitesse et Poli- 
tique / Speed and Politics (1977, 1986, 2006) is a history of what he 
calls an “inevitable technological vitalism” through which multiple 


8 / Speed and Politics 



projectiles — the inert membranes of fortress and bunkers, the 
“metabolic bodies” of soldiers, and transport bodies of naval 
vessels — mutually prostheticize each other in a pursuit of the 
competitive advantage of speed. 3 Among the key metabolic trans- 
formations traced in the book is the movement from the urban 
fortress to the open, smooth glacis of the sea, now a “vast logis- 
tical camp” in which naval, and finally amphibious strategies 
organize a “right to the sea.” This in turn framed a “right to the 
road” and later diagrammed the land in the smooth image of 
maritime drift. In that shift, the condition of habitable circulation, 
and its origins in military logistics — mobilization and fortification 
— remains of critical importance. What was once asked of archi- 
tecture, though, is now accomplished by other means, both 
informational and computational. Now the presence and vehicu- 
lar movement of people and objects through global space is tightly 
integrated with an infrastructure of software, and to send objects 
in motion or to impede their trajectory is a logistical labor per- 
formed by pulses of light as much as flesh and steel. 

“...An Essay on Dromology” 

Speed and Politics was first published in Paris against a backdrop 
characterized by the complicit, symmetrical stand-off of nuclear 
superpowers sealed by the SALT II accords, as well as by the rise of 
political terrorism in London, Rome, Mogadishu, Stammheim, 
Phnom Penh, Palestine, etc. By then, May 1968 (to which Virilio 
owed his appointment as Director of the Ecole Speciale d’ Archi- 
tecture) had soured into a restless, if also fertile, malaise. A new 
French society was reconfiguring itself around audiovisual media: 


Introduction: Logistics of Habitable Circulation / 9 


it 


the kitsch utopia of Beaubourg, the commercial center buried 
underneath the Forum des Halles, the new information head- 
quarters at La Defense, followed by the nightly spectacles at 
Bercy. Perhaps this had to be expected. Didn’t Mai end with a 
dour Pres, de Gaulle going on television, instead of appearing in 
person on the balcony of the Hotel de Ville, as would have been 
the custom? The anti-climactic broadcasts managed to accom- 
plish through the single-channel television something no urban 
strategy could have done: to stop the tumult of the deterritorialized 
streets, and to bring the nation if not to order, then to attention, 
to fix their gazes on a new national center, not of buildings, but 
of screens. 

Virilo’s work from this period can be understood as a sort of 
immediate pre-history of the “Software Society.” 4 By 1986, and 
the time of this English translation, the problematics of informa- 
tion technology, computational technologies (particularly 
database and optical media) had displaced the city (it reappeared 
in his later work, but as a artifact of the media that had partially 
consumed its earlier functions). 

Virilio’s logistical Modernity is meant “to carve and guide the 
masses,” the metabolic multitude, into mobile trajectories. Dro- 
mology is a shifting, restless logistics of differential governance 
transforming the raw material of the world and rendering it “in a 
more appropriate form” (36). For Virilio, “The city is but a 
stopover, a point on a the synoptic path of a trajectory, the 
ancient military glacis, ridge road, frontier or riverbank, where 
the spectator’s glance and the vehicle’s speed of displacement were 
instrumentally linked. As I have said in the past, there is only 
habitable circulation” (31). Cities govern these multiple scales of 
relative object velocity. They accelerate and/or frustrate: “All [cities] 


10 / Speed and Politics 



are uncertain places because they are situated between two speeds of j 

transit, acting as brakes against the acceleration of penetration” ;i 

(33). As a technology of space, cities galvanize both human and 
non-human metabolisms, channeling them, amplifying them, 
concentrating them into centers, domesticating them into suburbs. 

The question that would animate much of Virilio’s subsequent 
work is: how have these core functions of the city been assumed 
by other dromological media? 

Our Logistical Modernities 

“History progresses at the speed of its weapons systems;” that is, 
at the speed of the competitive capacities to envision, draw, map, 
curtail, mobilize, contour, stabilize and police the polis (90). At 
least since Vitruvius defined the rules of architecture based on his 
own military engineering experience, it is understood that the 
design of space is already a strategic weapon of fortification. But 
architectural media are only one such means and the evolution of 
their deployments is interrelated and serpentine. Marquis de 
Vauban, Louis XIV’s chief military engineer of fortifications (and 
of their breaching), made to his king the unusual recommendation 
that in order to secure a less permeable border with France’s 
neighbors he should voluntarily cede contested land deemed 
“indefensible.” The plan realized Richelieu’s earlier image to 
France as “le pre carre, ”or the “squared field,” and in fact this same 
phrase was later used to describe Vauban’s parallel lines of fortifi- 
cations up and down the now consolidated national enclosure. In 
1782, Charles de Fourcroy’s tableau poliometrique appeared. This 
“first known flowchart” is a diagram of the relative sizes of European 


Introduction: Logistics of Haoitao ! e Circulation / 1 1 


metropoles, and in it, as geographer Gilles Palsky notes, “We see 
the passage to abstract, to fictitious features. By these proportional 
triangles, [de Fourcroy] constructs an image that does not return 
or relate to [the] original existence.” 5 De Fourcroy’s semiotic 
innovation was this figural territorialization, the drawing of the 
comparative scale of cities as relative, primary geometric forms. 
This “map” does not correspond to any direct representation of 
the geographic juxtaposition of the cities, but rather graphs their 
relative quantitative difference in the population. This inscription 
produces another virtual space with which to order the natural 
territory of the polis as a projected image of an enclosed, admin- 
istrative totality. 

For Virilio, this also signals the production of logistical space as 
a Modern administrative horizon. “This means the universe is redis- 
tributed by the military engineers, the earth ‘communicating like a 
single glacis, as the infrastructure of future battlefield,” not one 
limited by given terrestrial geography (85). With the French Army 
of Engineers being assigned the task in 1790 of “expand[ing] the 
logistical glacis over the whole territory,” this era marked the birth 
of Modern administration-by-calculation, an on-going project in 
which all of the vicissitudes of land and its inhabitants are con- 
tinuously charted, symbolized, and manipulated. Virilio locates its 
emergence in the history of military geography, especially naval 
techniques. “Total war is omnipresent; it is first waged on the sea 
because the naval glacis naturally presents no permanent obstacle to 
vehicular movement of planetary dimensions,” and the mobility 
of smooth maritime space would return to organize land in its 
logistical image (73). Governance by speed (by states or otherwise) 
is logistics, and logistics, like the oceanic vectors from which it is 
born, is omnidirectional. 



Today the speed of logistics is also largely computational, but 
this is not to say virtual, immaterial, or distant. Quite the con- 
trary. Supermarket shelves, for example, are a human interface to 
a vast internet of things: a network of supply-chain, demand- 
chain and customer-relationship management softwares, steel 
containers, offshore factories, inter-modal exchange protocols — 
all forming an unimaginably complex, robust and nimble 
assembly of everyday purchase commands with vast economies of 
production and distribution. Today’s “fleets-in-being” are the 
exabytes and gigatons of component inventories in permanent 
transit, hurtling between trade zones as the consumable artifacts 
of their sponsoring corporations’ technological and legal efficiencies. 
Finally, these (disin)corporations and their far-flung suppliers of 
parts, labor, and expertise, guard nothing so dearly as the legal 
agency of brands , those operational fictions which they so care- 
fully embed into the demographically-microsegmented 
experiential touch-points of everyday life. This “flat world” 
imagines itself as slippery, oceanic grid modulated by differentially 
transporting, activating, internalizing, and/or prophylactically 
exteriorizing technologies: from shipping ports to aerotropoli, 
from banking software GUIs (graphical user interfaces) to web 
browser layout engines and data security protocols. Like an 
Andreas Gursky photograph, this “frictionless” landscape of 
interconnected objects and subjects is the constitution of a new 
architecture, one that relies on fragile alibis of virtual immateriality 
and procedural transparency to achieve the political, economic 
efficacy it enjoys. The reality of its performance, however, is also 
a uncontrollable accumulation of — very real and opaque — unin- 
tended consequences. 


1 2 / Speed and Politics 


Introduction: Logistics of Habitable Circulation / 13 


Dromocracy: Government by Prosthetics 


Where does Virilio locate the historical agency of dromology 
(speed) and dromocracy (politics)? How does one become the 
other? The recurring actor in Virilio’s history is the State, if only 
because it is also the legal signatory of modern war. But his is 
hardly a traditional political theory. “In fact there is no ‘industrial 
revolution’ but only a ‘dromocratic revolution;’ there is not 
democracy, only dromocracy; there is not strategy, only dromology” 
(69). States employ dromological techniques to exercise power, 
but as for Foucault, state apparatuses are functions, artifacts even, 
of dromocratic machinations that exceed their constitutions and 
incorporations. For Virilio (in concert with Deleuze and Guattari) 
such state governments are profiled as a sort of “machinic species” 
of collective formation. Echoing Heidegger, he writes that “dromo- 
cratic intelligence is not exercised against a more or less 
determined military adversary, but as a permanent assault on the 
world, and through it, on human nature” (86). Likewise, the 
mobilization of economic production is characterized less in terms 
of maximizing surplus labor value than according to the distribu- 


tion of metabolic intensification in the service of an historically 
comprehensive acceleration. 

Dromocracy establishes and reproduces standardized forms of 
assembly and disassembly for the systematic integration of human 
energy into specific infrastructures. “Factory work must not escape 
the dictatorship of movement. It reproduces the enclosure on the 
spot, in the obligatory and absurd kinetic cycle ... a condensed 
machine of the logistical glacis” (101). This is the design of cor- 
poreal discipline in the pursuit of the image of speed [not the 
image of truth as Foucault might prioritize it] in which “the class 

14 / Speed and Politics 


struggle is replaced by the struggle of the technological bodies of 
the armies according to their dynamic efficiency: logistics ” (72). 
Indeed the exercise of political authority in and through the 
dimensions of the body-in-motion appears for Virilio in its most 
extreme and comic form in those performances of collective sin- 
gularization that are Marxist state stadium pageants. Their 
choreographies of motor functions move according to the party 
line, now a literal grid. The numb aesthetic of “miming the joys at 
being liberated” and through this, “the simplicity of a power that 
comes down to the constraint and housebreaking of bodies,” is 
repeated upside down in the camps where the misbeliever’s body 
absorbs the cultivation of the law (55). Virilio writes, “His dissi- 
dence is a postural crime” (56). Even today, as this script of fleshly 
discipline has largely been exported from the commanding G8 
metropoles to its satellites, another softer intercourse emerges 
between the individual and his logistical destiny, transposed into 
other symbolic and informational economies. 

Dromocracy depends on technologies that in their employ- 
ment, straddle the pre-political and the hyperpolitical, working on 
the bodies of the masses as a practical material that can be strate- 
gically designed and deployed. If the city is a collective prostheses 
of its inhabitants, other technologies are for a more individual, 
specific purpose, for example the car. “The transportation capacity 
created by the mass production of automobiles became a social 
assault on space’ that would undo centripetal urban concentration 
exploding it into the congested network of the open highway (50). 
“No more riots, no need for much repression; to empty the streets, 
it s enough to promise everyone the highway: this is the aim of 
[the Nazi party’s] Volkswagen plebiscite” (49). Dromocracy extends 
to this new platform: “Speed limits... we are talking about acts of 


introduction: Logistics of Habitable Circulation / 15 


government, in other words of the political control of the highway, 
aiming precisely at limiting the extraordinary power of assault that 
the motorization of the masses creates” (51). Earlier in the century, 
the concentration of industrial technology into individual motor- 
ized locomotion had already revolutionized the battlefield in the 
figure of the tank; that “automotive fort” (78). These offered their 
commanders a new calculus of speed and movement. As if sailing 
across a smooth surface, the tank “extends war over an earth that 
disappears, crushed under the infinity of possible trajectories” (79). 
Yirilio suggests these “battleships of earth” (79) should not be called 
“all-terrain,” but “ sans-terrain in their obliteration of territorial 
impediment (78). Later with the Jeep (and more grotesquely the 
Hummer) the personal fortress would allow for the (largely preten- 
tious) presumption of this power to the performance of the daily 
commute. 6 But vehicular prostheticization is not only automotive. 
Others are assimilated as surgical prosthetics, others as fashion. The 
long marches of soldiers across fields plowed by battle during World 
War I presented the' problem of damaged feet, and gave rise to the 
practical science of Orthopedics, and the redesign of the pedestrian 
soldier’s locomotive technology: his shoes. This accomplishment is 
amplified and embellished in the cultural imaginary for which the 
sports shoe becomes a vehicle of personal ambulatory and logistical 
excellence (“Just do it”). 


The Information Bunker and the Ubiquitous Front 

Today information is architecture by other means , framing and con- 
touring the relative motility of social intercourse. While the city 
remains a locus of this staging and dissimulation of security, it is 


16 /Speed and Politics 



supplanted by other network media that have assumed some of its 
traditional mandates. Now highly evolved species of de Fourcroy’s 
tableau poliometrique proliferate on screens and surfaces in the form 
of the graphical user interfaces, narrating the affordances of the soft- 
wares they inscribe. But these GUI are not just diagrams of virtual 
action to be taken, they are also mechanisms through which a user’s 
motivation is first framed and then realized in the network and on 
the world. Modes of representation that were once cartographic and 
diagrammatic are now instrumental and mediational. 

As the diagram becomes an interface, when the map becomes 
the tool, personal, individual social action becomes more logistical. 
The subjective manipulation of virtual symbols becomes a struc- 
tural form of agency in this (pre-formatted) landscape of proximate 
and immediate contact. Consider how the political function of the 
urban gateway or boulevard to centralize and coordinate traffic and 
attention has been augmented by web portals and search engines, 
interfaces to the vast exabytes of online data curated and main- 
streamed for public accessibility. There the preferences of mobs are 
codified in the ranking of search results associated with potential 
words, places, and concepts. Search represents a new configuration 
of public tools with which to seek, browse, meander, and exchange 
files with others, to be proximate to others in your social networks. 
Not unlike cities themselves, Search is legislated by a shifting bal- 
ance of demographic desires, share-holder interest, and State 
paranoia. Virilio writes, “The State’s political power... is the polis, 
the police, in other words, highway surveillance” (39). Indeed many 
core innovations in Search technology are sponsored by security 
interests (state and otherwise) needing to meaningfully sift 
petabytes of “chatter” from which intelligence critical to securing 
the polis might be gleaned. 


introduction: Logistics of Habitable Circulation / 17 


Newer Search software works by making the world itself into 
the operant interactive metaphor for the world itself Google 
Earth’s interactive map/search/data visualization software, borrow- 
ing its interface aesthetics from previous generations of 
satellite — image-based battlefield simulation suites, promises to 
further incorporate personal logistics of everyday life into the 
tropics of “intelligence.” Its open API (application programming 
interface) also allows users to link Google Earth to other data 
streams, personal and public, furthering tipping the logic of its 
performance from that of a “map with interactive capabilities,” 
toward that of a real “meta-interface” based on cartographic, dia- 
grammatic metaphors. 

Just as diagrams become interfaces, computation also trans- 
forms physical urban interfaces by making them in turn 
increasingly diagrammatic. “In all parts of the world... implanted 
at the edges of cities, highways or railways... [is a] whole apparatus 
that is only the reconstitution of the various parts of the fortress 
motor, with its flankings, its gorges, its shafts, its trenches, admis- 
sion to and escape from portals, the whole primordial control of 
the masses by organisms of urban defense” (40) . Of the masses of 
things, that is. Today the urban interfaces of material exchange 
between supply chains and demand chains include ports of entry, 
now refitted as computationally-intensive logistics parks, which 
serve as regional switching mechanisms for the routing of compo- 
nents and the formation of geographically distributed assemblies 
of producers and consumers. There is a dromological heaven in 
these. The United Arab Emirates currently plans a truly Modern 
city of the future in their own in Jebel Ali, the Dubai Logistics 
City, which hopes to dwarf the strategic centrality of competing 
hubs in Rotterdam, Singapore, Shanghai and elsewhere by providing 


18 /Speed and Politics 





seemingly endless acreage of sea-air and air-air multi-modal passen- 
ger and cargo services: “merge-in-transit, customization, 

postponement, packaging and labeling, and final assembly.” Today 
our visionary architecture is designed not for the care and habitation 
of people, but as a utopia of and for objects. 

Impure War and the Exceptional Accident 

Virilio’s history — and our present moment — is a profile of vio- 
lence, of both binding and fissure. While Virilio begins with the 
literal, primordial bunker, he extends the economy of attrition to 
characterize Modernity itself. The bunker and its double, the 
camp, are the elemental spaces of this. The bunker is a concrete 
prophylactic, the camp is incarcerating. Both are hygienic, 
defensive. One is an architectural membrane against a hostile 
world, and one is an expulsion-by-enclosure of the Other from the 
normal performance of law. In their extreme forms, both spaces, 
even as they are often architecturally identical, are in their way 
zones of pure logistics. They are sites where the only compulsion 
is the execution of governance on a raw mass, mobilizing it, dia- 
gramming it. They are only ideal types, and the real world is full 
of spaces (factories, airports, warehouses, laboratories, jails, ship- 
ping ports, etc.) that are complex combinations of the bunker and 
the camp, switching from one the other, inverting exteriorization 
and interiorization moment by moment. 

For Virilio, the accumulation of capital is a means to ensure 
security, not the inverse. Lie writes: “Bourgeois power is military 
even more than economic, but it relates most directly to the occult 
permanence of the state of siege, to the appearance of fortified 


Introduction: Logistics of Habitable Circulation / 19 


towns, those ‘great immobile machines’ made in different ways” 
(36). The competitive and complicit energies of the masses are 
understood as possessing a permanent poliorcetic historical mission 
(conducting or resisting sieges), and their movements are governed 
by the immobile surfaces of city, resolved in a suspended state of 
soft siege. This slow, permanent war is itself a technology of glacial 
attrition and shared deterrence. The city is in essence a bunker, 
characterized by Virilio as a deliberate “reduction of power in 
favor of a better trajectory, life traded for survival” (85). The 
“front” of this “pure war” is everywhere and everything, both 
inside and outside of the “closed world” of the “society of con- 
trol.” The comprehensive enclosure of earthly territory under 
dromocratic supervision totalizes this soft siege as a condition of 
global social space. Today’s “security environment” (a preferred 
catch-phrase of Rumsfeld’s) is populated by a Poliorcetics Lite, in 
which the defense of common civilian passage from potential acts 
of violence is folded into design criteria for the dissuasion of both 
petty and grand crime. 7 

But to be sure, Virilio’s core exhortation diverges from that 
offered by a “frictionless capitalism” and its ideologies of reflexive 
transparency and seamless control. Instead, he sees the cumula- 
tive destiny of dromological globalization as a successively 
violent, increasingly integrated history of accidents. This Ballardian 
depiction of technology suggests that the invention or adoption 
of a new technology is always also the invention and adoption of 
a new accident. The invention of the ocean liner is also the inven- 
tion of its catastrophic sinking, the internal combustion engine is 
itself the invention of greenhouse gases, the discoveries of genomic 
science also bring with them the latent horrors of a “genetic 
bomb,” and the comprehensive integration of personal social lives 


20 / Speed and Politics 



into information networks is also their inevitable crash, taking 
with them the very social bonds that they contain and mediate 
for us. Such solutions also increase the scale of our shared risk. 
Virilio’s recent work focuses on what he calls the “integral acci- 
dent which may someday becomes our habitat,” a kind of global 
(terminal?) accident in which the comprehensiveness of dromo- 
logical administration promises as well an inevitable, equally 
global calamity of dysfunction. 8 

There is also an accident contained in theoretical technologies, 
and in the absorption of Virilio’s theory by the institutional posi- 
tions it seems to criticize so fiercely. “I am studied in military 
academies,” he tells Sylvere Lotringer in Pure War, and indeed he 
is. Like that of advertising strategists pouring over the works of 
Guy Debord, this is but one instance of theory itself performing 
as a kind of “accidental” conceptual avant-garde for the institu- 
tions it had hoped to undo by careful description. Perhaps the 
most direct and disquieting exemplar is Israeli Brigadier General 
Aviv Kokhavi, the IDF Paratroop commander, charged with lead- 
ing attacks on and thereby “redesigning” Palestinian territories in 
Nablus and elsewhere. Kokhavi is also an avid reader of Deleuze 
and Guattari’s theoretical technologies of deterritorialization, 
smooth/striated space, and nomadology. In his holster, their richly 
nuanced theories of emergent antagonisms become tactical tech- 
nologies for a newly sophisticated apparatus of state violence and 
rhizomatic repression. 9 But aren’t such inversions — both simula- 
tions and dissimulations — somehow already intrinsic to the 
dromological violence in question? Aren’t these “accidents of the- 
ory” already artifacts of the inversions that fundamentally 
characterize such configurations of violence? Football simulates 
primordial territorial clan warfare, and the supporters of Red Star 


Introduction: Logistics of Habitable Circulation / 21 


Belgrade are quickly recast as the shock troops of Serbian sweeps 
through Bosnia. As for American Football, the Louisiana Super- 
dome, site of the universal simulated siege of the Superbowl, 
becomes after Katrina the host of a real siege and the festering 
bodies of those displaced by a slow war of systemic neglect — one 
still broadcast with high ratings. Are such inversions, or “acci- 
dents” (including the consumption of Virilio’s theory of the 
dromological accident becoming a form of “intelligence” for the 
tactical management of dromocracy) are not (just) the exceptions 
but also the rule ? 

In the years since the publication of Speed and Politics, there has 
developed a rich discourse around the political function of the 
“exception,” and the architecture of the camp as a space of that 
exception. For Giorgio Agamben, the camp represents an extralegal 
territory, derived from its exceptional status as being both founded 
outside the normal juridical procedures of the State, and precisely 
through this exceptional character, embodying the State’s sovereign- 
ty not only over laws, but over law and the authority that it 
realizes. 10 The logic of the camp exceeds the normative productive 
link of power and resistance, revealing the exception as the real nexus 
of sovereign authority. Slavoj Zizek writes, in discussing Bahktin, 
that “what most deeply holds together a community is not so much 
identification with the Law that regulates the community’s ‘normal’ 
everyday rhythms, but rather identification with a specific form of 
transgression of the Law, of the Law’s suspension...” 11 

Virilio’s own theories of dromocracy and the modernity of 
accidents should be considered in relation to this discourse. He 
writes that “the precious lesson of the camp and the gulags has not 
been heeded, because it was erroneously presented not only as an 
ideological phenomenon, but also as a static one, an enclosure. Its 




absolute inhumanity is... the social bestiary of the immense bio- 
mass, proletariat subsumed under logistical demands” (98). In 
the camp, the administration of “bare life,” of the metabolic vehi- 
cles of dromocratic modernity, is rendered in stark relief. There is 
also a softer repetition of this in the world’s “special economic 
zones,” those extralegal logistical archipelagos that weave the 
flows of global commerce, and mobilize a new normative order in 
their image. But again, for Virilio the lesson is not the pretentious 
self-image of hyperefficiency that such networks communicate, 
but rather the exception that remains within the exception itself: 
the accident. The accident-within-the-accident emerges from the 
identification with the exception that Zizek names, perhaps in 
ways that Virilio might not himself recognize. Terrorism, for 
example, as well as the “state of emergency” of counter-terrorism, 
is neither entirely complicit with a symmetry of resistance to the 
law, nor ever possibly entirely outside it, but instead makes its 
claims over the sovereign exception to the law’s authority to 
author. This is also the crux of the wonderment and awe pro- 
voked by the event of catastrophic failure. It is not only horrific, 
it is mesmerizing, and because it is, the accident is also a critical 
source of solidarity, a binding exception that is the real condition 
of acceptance. The carnival of accidents is revealed as technolo- 
gy s own exceptional bacchanalia, staged at our expense and on 
our behalf. 


Benjamin H. Bratton is a theorist and consultant based in Los Angeles. He 
teaches at SCI_Arc (The Southern California Institute of Architecture) and 
UCLA, www.bratton.info 


Introduction: Logistics of Habitable Circulation / 23 


Notes 


1. Paul Virilio/Sylvere Lotringer, Pure War. Trans. Mark Polizzotti. New 
York: Semiotext(e), 1983. 


2. Paul Virilio, “Architecture Principe,” AA Documents 3: The Function of the 
Oblique, Architectural Association, London. 1996. P. 13. 

3. P. 68 of the present edition. Speed and Politics: An Essay on Dromology. Semi- 
otext(e), New York. Subsequent parenthetical quotations are from this same 
edition. 

4. The term “software society” is developed further in a forthcoming essay 
co-authored by Lev Manovich and myself. 

5- Gilles Palsky, Des chiffres et des cartes, naissance et la cartography quantita- 
tive francaise au XIX ? siecle developpement. (Memoires de la section de 
geographic No. 19). Paris: Comite des travaux historiques et scientifiques, 
1996. (translated by Daniel J. Denis) Pp.51-52 

6. These rolling gated communities provide a more direct identification with 
military purpose. During the first Gulf War, a common bumper sticker was 
“I Support the Troops,” whereas the parade of post-9/11 Hummers says 
rather “I Am The Troops.” 

7. The “security environment” is populated by small and large architectures 
of control: from sit-proof benches” (benches and sidewalk planters 
designed with uncomfortable barbs to prevent loitering and keep pedestri- 
ans moving,) to the locking of workers overnight into the Big Box 
emporiums where they restock shelves until morning. We are treated to 
invited competitions by major newspapers for the “architectural” design of 
the U.S./Mexico border, and the current conception of a “Freedom Tower” 
at the former site of the World Trade Center as a ponderous concrete forti- 
fication wrapped in semi-translucent glass — an enduringly disingenuous 
symbol of martial culture. 


i 


24 / Speed and Politics 




8. The notion of technology revealing itself most directly in its failure again 
links Virilio’s critique to Heidegger’s. See Virilio, Unknown Quantity, Fon- 
dation Cartier pour l’art contemporain. Thames & Hudson, 2003. P.25 

9. Kokhavi is quoted by Eyal Weizman, “Several of the concepts in A Thou- 
sand Plateaus became instrumental for us... allowing us to explain 
contemporary situations in a way that we could not otherwise have explained 
them. It problematized our paradigms. . . Most important was the distinction 
they have pointed out between the concepts of ‘smooth’ and ‘striated’ 
space... In the IDF we now often use the term ‘to smooth out space’ when 
we want to refer to operation in a space as if it had no borders.” Weizman, 
“Lethal Theory,” Logl , Winter/Spring 2006. P. 59. 

10. Agamben recounts recent responses to that the “scandalous” discovery of 
correspondence between Walter Benjamin and fascist jurist, Carl Schmitt, on 
sovereignty and violence — another “accident of theory” — and argues that it 
is Benjamin who should be understood to have “infected” Schmitt’s position. 
See Agamben, State of Exception. University of Chicago Press, 2005. Pp. 
52-64. 

1 1 . Slavoj Zizek, The Universal Exception. New York: Continuum Press, 
2006. P. 64. 


Introduction: Logistics of Habitable Circulation / 25 




THE DROMOCRATIC REVOLUTION 


I wouldn’t want to be a survivor. 


— Jean Mermoz 





1 


From Street Fight to State Right 


The mass of individuals that the smallest military unit offers 
the eye, united in a common voyage. 

— Clausewitz, 1 806 

IN EVERY REVOLUTION there is the paradoxical presence of circu- 
lation. Engels remarks in June 1848: “The first assemblies taJke 
place on the large boulevards, where Parisian life circulates with the 
greatest intensity. Less than a century later, Weber says of the dis- 
appearance of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht (as if he were 
talking about the results of a car crash) that “they called to the 
streets, and the streets killed them.” 1 he masses are not a popula- 
tion, a society, but the multitude of passersby. 1 he revolutionary 
contingent attains its ideal form not in the place of production, but 
in the street, where for a moment it stops being a cog in the tech- 
nical machine and itself becomes a motor (machine of attack), in 
other words a producer of speed. 

For the mass of unemployed, demobilized workers without an 
occupation, Paris is a tapestry of trajectories, a series of streets and 
avenues in which they roam, for the most part, with neither goal 
nor destination, subject to a police repression intended to control 
their wanderings. For the various revolutionary' groups, as for the 


29 


Apaches and other shady populations of the city’s outskirts, it will 
be less a matter, when the time comes, of occupying a given 
building than of holding the streets. 1 In 1931, during the National 
Socialists’ struggle against the Marxist parties in Berlin, Joseph 
Goebbels notes, “Whoever can conquer the streets also conquers 
the State!” 2 

Can asphalt be a political territory? Is the bourgeois State and 
its power the street, or in the street? Are its potential force and 
expanse in the places of intense circulation, on the path of rapid 
transportation? 

As Goebbels again writes about the battles for Berlin, “The 
ideal militant is the political combatant in the Brown Army as a 
movement... obeying a law that he sometimes doesn’t even know, 
but that he could recite in his sleep... Thus we have set these 
fanatical beings in motion...” 

He then scientifically compares the transcripts of his various 
speeches, made first in the provinces and then later in Berlin, and 
notices that the “amorphous sociological conglomerate” of the 
capital required the invention of a “new language for the masses”: 
“The rhythm of the metropolis with its four million souls throbs 
like a burning wind through the declarations of propagandists... 
Here a new and modern language was spoken, one that has nothing 
to do with the archaic forms of so-called popular expression. This 
is the beginning of an original artistic style, the first form of 
expression to be truly animated and galvanizing. ” 

Mob riots reform the mob (the original mob of hunter-raiders). 
To lead the bands of “lost soldiers” of the workers’ army — its dro- 
momaniacs 3 — that is, for the leader, to incite them, “lead them to 
the attack like a pack of dogs,” as Saint-Just said. It means giving 
rhythm to the mobile mass’s trajectory through vulgar stimulation, 


30 / Speed and Pc tics 


a polemical symphony, transmitted far and wide, from one to the 
other, polyphonic and multicolored like the road signals and traffic 
directions meant to accelerate the telescoping, the shock of the 
accident. 4 This is the ultimate goal of street demonstrations, of 
urban disorder. “Propaganda must be made directly by words and 
images, not by writing,” states Goebbels, who was himself a great 
promoter of audiovisuals in Germany. Reading implies time for 
reflection, a slowing down that destroys the mass’s dynamic effi- 
ciency. If a monument should be penetrated by the mob, it will be 
rapidly transformed into a place of passage, where everyone enters 
and exits, brings to and takes away. It’s the free-for-all, plunder for 
plundering’s sake, as we saw even in 1975 at the fall of Saigon. 

All through history there has been an unspoken, unrecognized 
revolutionary wandering, the organization of a first mass trans- 
portation — which is nonetheless revolution itself. Thus the old 
conviction that “every revolution takes place in the city” comes from 
the city; the expression “dictatorship of the Paris Commune,” used 
as far back as the events of 1789, should not suggest so much the 
classic opposition of city to country as that of stasis to circulation. 

Despite convincing examinations of city maps, the city has not 
been recognized as first and foremost a human dwelling place pene- 
trated by channels of rapid communication (river, road, coastline, 
railway). It seems we’ve forgotten that the street is only a road passing 
through an agglomeration, whereas every day laws on the “speed 
limit” within the city walls remind us of the continuity of displace- 
ment, of movement, that only the speed laws modulate. The city is 
but a stopover, a point on the synoptic path of a trajectory, the ancient 
military glacis, ridge road, frontier or riverbank, where the spectator’s 
glance and the vehicle’s speed of displacement were instrumentally 
linked. As I have said in the past, there is only habitable circulation.’’ 


From Street Fight to State Right / 31 


:1 


This is particularly evident today in Japan — for example, in 
those immense revolutionary battles that come down to simple 
collision, to the provocation of a clash with the urban police, in 
which the mass of overtrained militants is armed with audio visual 
machines: movie cameras, tape recorders, etc. Aware of the kinetic 
nature of their actions, it’s the instantaneousness of their presence 
(in the next second they have vanished from the street that they film 
and record); they, the passers-by for whom the ban on loitering goes 
hand in hand with the ban on gathering. In the same way they 
evaded the very revelatory slogan of the 1 848 insurgents: “Desperate 
masses,” writes Engels, “who demand bread and work, or death.” 

In fact, the watchword of these “workers’ battalions” (as those 
who would be deported by force to the provinces or drafted into the 
army were called) was “were stayin ' ” . . . were not moving from here! 
The socialist utopia of the nineteenth century, like the democratic 
utopia of the ancient agora, was literally buried under the vast 
scaffolding of urban construction, obscuring the fundamental 
anthropological side of revolution, of proletarianization: the 
migratory phenomenon. 

On September 21, 1788, Arthur Young notes in his famous 
journal: “...the great commercial city of Nantes!... Arrive — go to 
the theatre, new built of fine white stone. It was Sunday, and 
therefore full. Mon Dieu! cried I to myself, do all the wastes, the 
deserts, the heath, ling, furz, broom, and bog, that I have passed 
for 300 miles, lead to this spectacle?... There are no gentle transi- 
tions from ease to comfort, from comfort to wealth: you pass at 
once from beggary to profusion, — from misery in mud cabins to 
splendid spectacles at 500 liv. a night.” 

The new city with its riches, its unheard-of technical facilities, 
its universities and museums, its stores and permanent holidays, 



32 / Speed and Politics 


its comforts, its knowledge and its security, seemed an ideal spot 
for the tiring journey to end, the ultimate landing dock for the 
mass’s migrations and hopes after a perilous crossing — so much so 
that until recently we confused urban and urbane for a place of 
social and cultural exchanges what was only a highway or railway 
exchanger. We took the crossroad for the path of socialism. 

If municipalities rent out space at top dollar and slap sur- 
charges on windows and street-side facades, it’s because all these 
architectural details of the bourgeois dwelling traditionally carry 
the possibility of commerce and information. The display win- 
dows of Dutch prostitutes still reproduce today the old “bow 
windows” whose curvature allowed one a panoramic view of what 
was coming and going. The spectacle of the street is traffic, the 
“pilgrim’s progress” movement of progression, of procession at 
once voyage and improvement, a movement likened to progress 
toward something better, a pilgrimage that dominated the Middle 
Ages. 6 The street is like a new coastline and the dwelling a sea-port 
from which one can measure the magnitude of the social flow, 
predict its overflowings. The doors ro rhe city are its tollbooths 
and its customs posts are dams, filtering the fluidity of the masses, 
the penetrating power of the migrating hordes. The old, swampy, 
unhealthy beaches that surrounded the fortified city, the “congo- 
plains” of the American slave, the old fortifications, the outskirts, 
the shantytowns and favellas — but also the poorhouse, the bar- 
racks, the prisons — solve a problem less of enclosure or exclusion 
than of traffic. All of them are uncertain places because they are 
situated between two speeds of transit, acting as brakes against the 
acceleration of penetration. Located from the outset on paths of 
terrestrial or fluvial communication, they will later be compared 
to sewers, to stagnant waters, the end of fluidity (progress), the 


From Street Fight to State Right / 33 


sudden absence of motivity, ineluctably creating a quasi-organic 
corruption of the masses. 

“Neutral spaces, spaces without genre,” writes Balzac, “where 
every vice, every misfortune in Paris takes refuge.” This is the origin 
of the sub-urb, at once the province of interdiction and a linear and 
temporal distance— in other words, the depot and “trans-shipment” 
of the social matter as of the merchandise, provisions and livestock 
to which the “beery” proletariat has been likened for centuries: 
essentially wild animals become beasts of burden, warhorses or pack 
animals. The conditions of the proletarian masses’ exploitation, 
furthermore, illustrate perfectly the definition that Geoffroy Saint 
Hilaire gives of domestication: “To domesticate an animal is to 
accustom it to living and breeding in or near men’s dwellings.” 

The “right to lodging” is not, as was claimed, the “right to enter 
the city.” Like the inorganic mass of wild animals, the proletarian 
horde carries a menace, a load of unpredictability and ferocity. It is 
allowed as “domestic” to gather and reproduce near the dwellings of 
men, under their watchful eye. The problems of human habitation 
properly speaking are absolutely differentiated from those of the 
proletarian cattle, of its Lodgings in the barnyard of the castle, in the 
outskirts of the fortified city. As with the stable or enclosure, the 
temporary lodging of the migrating masses implies their relative dis- 
tance from the dwellings of men, in other words from the city. The 
bourgeoisie will get its initial power and class characteristics (which, 
of course, were not at all peculiar to them; we all know the capital 
role played by monasticism, chivalry, etc., in the areas of banking, 
industry...) less from commerce and industry than from the strate- 
gic implantation that establishes the “fixed domicile” as a social and 
monetary value 7 — from real estate speculation as the sale and trading 
of fixed property, the right to reside within the ramparts of fortified 



cities, the right to security and preservation within the perilous 
migration of a world of pilgrims, barges, soldiers and exiles moving 
onward by the millions. 

Starting in 1077 with the Commune of Cambrai, the “urban 
franchises” will spread little by little to every commercial city. We 
could easily spot them on a map: logically, they are all situated on 
large waterways or highways, while regions difficult to reach such as 
Brittany or the Massif Central have few or no communes. The 
advent of bourgeois power with the revolution of the communes 
can already be likened to a “national war of liberation” since it sets, 
on its terrain, a native population against a military occupier come 
from the East who claims to govern its conquest. The guarantee of 
urban franchises is first and foremost the reorganization of the old 
Gallo-Roman site following the layout of the fortified castle, the 
construction of those impregnable fortresses that had nothing to 
fear from the war machines then in use, but everything to fear, at 
every moment, from surprises and strategems come from without, 
from afar, with the nomadic masses. 

If the reorganization of the old villa, its transformation by the 
feudal colonizer into a castle replete with moat, set up stockades and 
dirt embankments against every natural danger and scourge without 
distinction, the architecture of the fortified castle that succeeded it 
lost this rural character and became purely military. From then on 
it addressed only one enemy: the man of war. Furthermore, what 
differentiates the ancient fortress from that of the Middle Ages in 
Europe, despite their apparent similarity, is that the latter, thanks to 
the architectural organization of its internal spaces, allows one to 
prolong combat indefinitely, with its slits, its projections, its trenches, 
its high walls... 8 The fortified enclosure of the Middle Ages creates 
an artificial field, makes this field a stage on which physical and 


34 / Speed and Politics 


From Street Fight to State Right / 35 


psychological constraints can be imposed. After Machiavelli, 
Vauban will heartily support this means of avoiding carnage and of 
breaking up the enemy simply by constructing a topological universe 
made of “a totality of mechanisms able to receive a defined form 
of energy (in this case, that of the mobile mass of assailants), to 
transform it and finally to return it in a more appropriate form.” 

Reorganized according to the same principle, the communal 
fortress remaines a “field of strategems” set for the adversary. But the 
latter changes character once more, becoming first and foremost a 
social enemy. 

Aside from its military function, the rampart of the fortified 
place assumes a class function; its poliorcetic conception allows it to 
prolong the social combat indefinitely. The communal bourgeoisie 
gives rise to a new phenomenon, like a prolonged and patient war 
that has all the earmarks of the inertia of peace, and nothing more 
of the bloody effusions of ancient civil war, the seasonal outbursts 
and violent movements of the country battlefield. Bourgeois power 
is military even more than economic, but it relates most directly to 
the occult permanence of the state of siege, to the appearance of for- 
tified towns, those “ great immobile machines made in different ways 
In the same way, the decadence of the enclaved bourgeoisie, the loss 
of its own will, will be linked to the decline of its military technique 
in the domain of ground warfare. As Montesquieu remarks, “With 
the invention of gunpowder, the impregnable place ceased to exist.” 

Clausewitz has admirably shown the mercenaries of the large 
Italian cities, then of Europe in general, lending their services to 
powerful economies — the only ones capable of furnishing the mili- 
tary entrepreneur with an increasingly large budget, the goods and 
transferable holdings that he can take with him at the end of his 
engagement contract (whence the “evident conjuncture between 


36 / Speed and Politics 



money and what seems to found it, its military significance” — Marx 
to Engels, September 25, 1857). But he doesn’t go far enough in 
designating the latter as technical manufacturer, as engineer (of 
weapons). In fact, it was the military engineers who, depending on 
the opportunities afforded, were able to protect or destroy private 
securities within the bourgeois citadel. And here we have the 
unspoken conjucture from which the “cannibalistic classes” will 
come — not only the bourgeoisie, but also the permanent military 
class. The Marxist definition of capitalism, “consumer of human life 
and founder of dead labor,” is quite apt for the bourgeoisie, but only 
insofar as it is associated with its military technical adviser, who 
simultaneously invents the means of producing and of destroying 
what he produces, a war entrepreneur who will be at the origin of 
the State armies and later of the military industrial complex. Just as 
the condottiere had benefited from this system of ruin by leaning on 
the city’s economic orientation, so the communal bourgeoisie 
already carries within itself the same ambiguous association of 
wealth and the production of destruction. 

This fatal merger was formed on these grounds like a chance 
meeting: “The strategic importance of a given proposition is not the 
result of largely hypothetical combinations, but of the very con- 
figuration of the countryside: this will be an important knot of 
communication lines, the meeting point of numerous roads or the 
confluence of valleys.” As we saw before, wherever these conditions 
are fulfilled, there are population centers; where there is traffic, there 
is also the urban area. To recapitulate, the conditions that obtained 
at the birth of the great cities are always those that make these cities 
important strategic points. 10 The solution, then, imposed itself, and 
up until the twentieth century they almost always decided to transform 
the most populous centers into large fortresses. National Defense 


hrorr St'ee: i- on; :c State Right / 37 


continued to mix, in almost medieval fashion, military men with 
the civilians whose resources (supplies, physical labor, lodgings, 
arms, etc.) were of no small importance to the army. The vety givens 
of capitalism, the inactivity of its wealth, directly contribute toward 
maintaining the state of siege! 

If the fortified town is an immobile machine, the military engi- 
neers specific task is to fight against its inertia. “The goal of 
fortification is not to stop armies, to contain them, but to dominate, 
even to facilitate their movements Around 1870 Colonel Delair 
notes: ‘Every fortress must possess a certain particular state, a certain 
power of resistance, which in men is called good health. In peace- 
time, we officers of the engineering corps are responsible for keeping 
the fortress in good health.” And a bit further on: “The art of 
defense must constantly be in transformation; it is not exempt from 
the general law of this world: stasis is death.” 11 

The communal fortress is a city machine, so much so that Cor- 
montaigne, Fourcroy and many engineers of the eighteenth century, 
in their fictional diaries of sieges” or their “moments of fortifica- 
tion, don’t even mention the troops assigned to defend it, as if the 
fortress were capable of functioning by itself. General de Villemoisy 
in the nineteenth century notes its technical superiority: “Out of 
300 sieges conducted by the Europeans since the beginning of this 
century, there have only been about ten in which the fortification 
fell first.” The military thus seems dependent on the general concept 
of the fortified place. Carnot praises its division of labor: “It has 
been proven that bravery and industry — which, taken separately, 
would not suffice — can, once they are joined, multiply each other.” 
After Vauban, the defenders’ presence in the fortified place will not 
be a matter of chance: the decree of December 28, 1866, will still 
name the governors of fortified cities as permanent residents in both 


38 / Speed and Politics 



peace and war, just as the garrison will be obliged to perform daily 
tasks, each one being assigned a fixed and invariable function, 
repeated day after day. 

The occupants of the Maginot Line, for their part, had gotten 
into the habit of calling it “the factory.” Long after the dismantling 
of the old communal city and up until the twentieth century, when 
large fortified places still exist, the military class continues to find 
work with its old bourgeois employer, the two slowly becoming 
“compradores.” The interests of the war entrepreneur remain 
aligned with those of capitalism in permanent strategic schemas: in 
1793, Barere compares the young Republic (the Paris Commune) to 
a large city under siege and he calls for all of France to be no more than 
a vast camp. The political triumph of the bourgeois revolution 
consists in spreading the state of siege of the communal city 
machine, immobile in the middle of its logistic glacis and domestic 
lodgings, over the totality of the national territory. And in 1795, it 
will entrust to Carnot’s new armies the job of pushing as far back as 
possible the assault by the popular masses come from the suburb, of 
encircling the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, of forcing the dismayed 
workers to give up their weapons to its 20,000 soldiers “who had 
forgotten that they were also of the people” (Babeuf). 

The State’s political power, therefore, is only secondarily “power 
organized by one class to oppress another.” More materially, it is the 
polls, the police, in other words highway surveillance, insofar as, since 
the dawn of the bourgeois revolution, the political discourse has 
been no more than a series of more or less conscious repetitions of 
the old communal poliorcetics, confusing social order with the 
control of traffic (of people, of goods), and revolution, revolt, with 
traffic jams, illegal parking, multiple crashes, collisions. The results 
of the 1977 French municipal elections were exemplar}' in this 


From Street Fight to State Right / 39 


respect, since they reinscribed, on the national territory, Barere’s old 
plan to cut France in two: at the center the decisive knot of the 
capital where the right triumphs, and all around the vast camp of the 
suburbs and provinces that voted for the left because they were con- 
scious of becoming a hinterland in which productive activity was on 
the decline. On the other hand, these elections also show how much 
the opposing party’s discourse is dominated by the reactionary 
schema of bourgeois poliorcetics, confining the mass’s ability to 
move with its ability to attack — the ultreia of pilgrim’s progress. But 
beyond that, this political police schema, accepted until very recently 
by every ideology, influences both urban and worldwide planning; 
the passage from the “great immobile machine” to the State- 
machine, and finally to the planet machine, is accomplished 
without difficulty. The words “politics of progress” or “of change” 
are devoid of meaning if, behind the electric megalopolis, the city 
knows no rest, if we can’t distinguish the obscure silhouette of the 
old fortress struggling against its inertia, for whom stasis is death. 

In all parts of the world, social lodgings, the city-dormitory or 
port of transit, implanted at the edges of cities, highways or rail- 
ways, the toll systems that the government insists so strongly on 
instituting at the very entrances to a capital that selection is depop- 
ulating, the general police headquarters set up right nearby — this 
whole apparatus is only the reconstitution of the various parts of the 
fortress motor, with its blankings, its gorges, its shafts, its trenches, 
admission to and escape from its portals, the whole primordial 
control of the masses by the organisms of urban defense. 

We also saw, during the German occupation of France, how 
easy it was for pseudo-social lodgings in the suburbs (Drancy, for 
example), like the old poorhouse, to be transformed into pivots 
toward the “beyond” of other voyages, other deportations. Whatever 


40 / Speed and Pc 'tics 


their supposed ideology, the proper role of every totalitarian regime 
is to bring to the fore the mitigated role of the army and the police 
(v. their rivalry) vis a vis the unrecognized order of political circula- 
tion. We could even say that the rise of totalitarianism goes 
hand-in-hand with the development of the state’s hold over the 
circulation of the masses. Because of this, from the outset, it is easy 
to spot in the history of the great administrative bodies of the State: 
it was Sully, himself a grand master of roads and canals, who 
brought “the administration of fortifications” out of the rut with the 
edict of 1604 and gave it a modern form which continued well into 
the twentieth century, despite apparent revolutions. 

As Tocqueville remarks, the quartermasters of fortifications 
simultaneously perform, in the most ambiguous fashion, the state’s 
civilian and military duties. Under Louis XIV, Mesrine will be 
assigned to create permanent companies of miners, sappers and 
boatmen who will originally be part of the corps of engineers, and 
who will replace the volunteer engineers — labor inspectors come 
up from the ranks or civilian public works officials, such as the 
famous Tarade, who was also in charge of Parisian sanitary engi- 
neering. Thus, on the eve of the bourgeois revolution of ’89, the 
Army Corps of Engineers was providentially given a national task: 
not only the construction/destruction of the urban ramparts, but 
also the expansion of the logistical glacis over the whole territory 
(Barere’s “vast camp of the nation ). 

Thus we shouldn’t wonder about the exceptional vogue of engi- 
neers after the seventeenth century, a vogue that in the nineteenth 
century would become a veritable cult in philosophy and fiction. 
The engineer is celebrated as the ‘priest of civilization (Saint- 
Simon), a perverted image we will come back to, but which appears 
quite naturally after that of the “castrameter - the latter really a 


From Street Fight to State Right / 41 


priest or man of the Church assigned to teach “the art of limiting 
camps and fortified places by geometrical layouts.” (But already, as 
Colonel Lazard noted, it was no longer a question of a specifically 
military art, but rather a kind of reign of descriptive geometry pro- 
jected onto the sites, over the totality of nature . . .) 12 The military class 
is not born of the overpopulated headquarters of the ancien regime, 
offices in which one saw marshals and general officers alternate, 
almost daily, the command of the traditional armies. Under such 
conditions — even if they had considerable budgets at their disposal 
— there was little danger that these armies could demonstrate any 
kind of unified thought or strategic imagination. The only mili- 
tary activity that requires continuity of ideas, then, is the logistical 
project of the urban fortress. And it’s from this equivocal logistical 
duty that the mixture of combat planning and territorial layout, 
christened “National Defense” by the bourgeois revolution, is born. 

Vauban is the precursor here. An avid reader of Vitruvius and 
obsessed by the Roman colonial model, he thinks that the basis of 
war is geo-political and universal, that human geography should 
depend not on chance but on organizational techniques able to con- 
trol fairly vast spaces, fairly durable empires. Aside from the old 
highway maintenance, this new military thought incorporated eco- 
nomic forecasts, genetic concerns, problems of food, etc. It is again 
an engineer and director of fortifications, of course, who in 1782 will 
publish one of the first known flowcharts: Charles de Fourcroy and his 
“Sketch for a poleometric table or the musings of a diagram lover on 
the magnitude of several cities with a map or chart offering a com- 
parison of these cities in the same scale.” This is the first “two-way” 
map, a contemporary of the scientific map of France by the Cassinis. 

This military thought, that claims by functional planning to 
eliminate chance (which it considers synonymous with disaster and 


42 / Speed and Politics 



ruin), becomes totally confused at the end of the ancien regime with 
the thinking of the bourgeois political class, its taste for rational 
nomenclature, its tireless activity of totalitarian scribe (encyclope- 
dist), the osmosis taking place at the entrance to the cities 
(permeable membrane between the highway and the street). The 
head of the first Parisian municipality was, as we know, the director 
of the Hanse. 13 The City Flail overlooked the waterfront, and the 
boat has remained the vehicular emblem of what was no more than 
a nauta-city. The same preoccupations reappear toward 1749 in the 
works of police officer Guillaute, for example: “No more revolts, no 
more seizures, no more tumults,” he writes. “Public order will reign 
if we are careful to distribute our human time and space between 
the city and the country by a severe regulation of transit; if we are 
attentive to schedules as well as to alignments and signal systems; if 
by environmental standardization the entire city is made transparent, 
that is, familiar to the policeman’s eye.” 

Today many people are discovering, somewhat late in the 
game, that once the “first public transport” of the revolution has 
passed, socialism suddenly empties of its contents — except, perhaps, 
military (national defense) and police (security, incrimination, 
detention camps). 

The time has come, it seems; to face the facts: revolution is 
movement, but movement is not a revolution. Politics is only a gear 
shift, and revolution only its overdrive: war as “ continuation of 
politics by other means” would be instead a police pursuit at greater 
speed, with other vehicles. The ultima ratio very carefully engraved 
on pieces of artillery under Louis XIV expressed quite well the 
procedure for changing speed. The piece of artillery is a mixed vehicle 
that synthesizes two velocities of displacement: that of the relatively 
rapid tractor-drawn cannon, and the lightning speed of the projectile 


From Street Fight to State Right / 43 


toward its explosion as the ultimate argument of reason. In the same 
way, “political socialism,” by its political nature (polis), usually fails 
when the acceleration of civil war toward urban collision stops, itself 
being nothing other than. . . 

Some regard unfavorably the current proliferation of parades in 
the city, ambulatory manifestations, even a “rally of the unem- 
ployed,” such as in April 1977 in Thionville. They don’t really see, 
after the sporting grand finale of May ’68, the professional or social 
effectiveness of such performances. Nonetheless, these urban cross- 
country races, these obstacle courses, have a precise goal that the 
classics of western revolutionary culture, such as Pravda, again 
revealed in the summer of 1976: “Parading in the streets is a 
worker’s best possible preparation for the battle for power...” 

Already under the ancien regime — the monarch’s physical person 
being associated with the State — we see disturbances, scenes of revolt 
as soon as the king’s place of residence becomes uncertain. The 
Parisian populace penetrates the Royal Palace; then, after having been 
admitted to contemplate the sovereign, leaves feeling calmer. In the 
same way, for the proletarian masses from the country or the suburbs, 
the simple fact of penetrating to the heart of Paris, of feeling under 
their feet its avenues and opulent streets, is a very concrete way of 
diminishing a real and measurable social and political resistance 
between the masses and the constructed power of the bourgeois State. 
In fact, mass movements under the ancien regime, wandering in search 
of the person of the monarch/ State, prefigure the new organization of 
traffic flows that we arbitrarily call the “French Revolution,” which is 
nothing other than the rational organization of a social abduction. 
The “mass uprising” of 1793 is the removal of the masses. 

The discourse propagated by revolutionary propaganda is like 
the bourgeois citadel’s old religious discourse. It distances and 


44 / Speed and Politics 


dissuades the mobile masses; it designates a new revolutionary 
State as not being here in the city, in the streets, but over there, 
far away, in the excessiveness of a universal and timeless raid. 
“Embrace,” cries Gregoire, “the expansion of the centuries as that 
of the regions. . .avoid a much-heeded prejudice that would circum- 
scribe the Republic in a very restricted territory!” (November 27, 
1792) — while the bourgeoisie immediately gives itself new properties 
and estates, and threatens with death all who would question the 
right to private property (March 18, 1793). What it offers as 
territories to its “conscripts” are the roads of Europe. “Where the feet 
are, there is the fatherland” ( uhi pedes, ibi patria), Roman law had 
already decreed. With the French Revolution, all the highways 
became nationall 

The movement of the Parisian sans-culottes preceded the “mass 
uprising” of ‘93 as, much later, the sinister adventure of Flilter’s 
“Brown Shirts,” the Sturmabteilung, would precede the German 
mobilization for total war. Like them, the sans-culottes are dromo- 
maniacs, “couriers of terror” sent forward before the Revolution 
onto the Parisian pavement. The decree of March 21, 1793, legalizes 
their specific function: these militant political fanatics are only the 
logistical agents of terror, members of the “police": denunciation of 
“suspects,” surveillance of neighborhoods and buildings, deliverance 
of certificates of civic merit, arrests, but also provisions, circulation 
and navigation of commodities, price controls... 

In May they will be absorbed into the Army of the Interior, sent 
in infernal columns along the roads of the provinces. One year later 
their leaders will be executed, like the supreme commander of the 
Brown Shirts on June 30, 1934, the “Night of the Long Knives.” 
Revolution is no more than a rerouting of the old social assault. 
Carnot, as a good member of the Corps of Engineers, channels his 


From Street Fight to State Right / 45 


fleet far from the communal fortress, toward the “army zones.” He 
still prefers to take his contingents from the Parisian popular forces; 
the soldier of Year II is torn from the street that he wanted to con- 
quer and involved in the irrational voyage, the deportation of the 
long and murderous “forced march.” “The new army,” writes 
Carnot, “is a mass army crushing the adversary under its weight in a 
permanent offensive , to the tune of the Marseillaise .” The national 
anthem is only a road song, regulating the mechanics of the 
march. In his memoirs, Poumies de la Siboutie notes, “Never had 
we sung so much... songs were a powerful revolutionary means, the 
Marseillaise’ electrified the populace. . . ” 

The mathematician Carnot and the doctor Poumies were not 
mistaken: the revolutionary song is a kinetic energy that pushes the 
masses toward the battlefield, toward the kind of Assault that Shake- 
speare had already described as “Death killing Death.” And that is 
in fact what it is all about, since one had to charge the enemy 
artillery, and the only way was for the infantryman to rush toward 
the cannons, to kill its servants on the spot. But to reach them, he 
had an extremely limited amount of time: the time it took the 
enemy artillery to reload. As soon as the shot had been fired, 
therefore, the infantryman had to rush toward the enemy cannons. 
His life then depended on his running speed; if he was too slow, he 
died literally disintegrated point blank by the firing end... 

Everything in this new warfare becomes a question of time won 
by man over the fatal projectiles toward which his path throws him. 
Speed is Time saved in the most absolute sense of the word, since it 
becomes human Time directly torn from Death — whence those 
macabre emblems of decimation worn down through history by the 
Assault troops, in other words the rapid troops (black uniforms and 
flags, death’s heads, by the uhlan, the SS, etc.). 


46 / Speed and Politics 


But beyond this, what should we think of this revolution that 
will soon be entirely reduced to a permanent Assault on Time? The 
perpetual offensive of Carnot’s mass armies is the reversal of the old 
run before you. Salvation is no longer in flight; safety is in 
“running toward your Death,” in “killing your Death.” Safety is in 
Assault simply because the new ballistic vehicles make flight useless; 
they go faster and farther than the soldier, they catch up with him 
and pass him. The man on the battlefield has no safety, it seems, 
other than in a suicidal entrance into the very trajectory of the speed 
of the engines. It is toward this that he is pitilessly pushed by the 
new military jurisdiction that takes him literally “between two 
fires! From now on, general safety can come only from the masses in 
their entirety reaching speed. Napoleon expresses it clearly: “Aptitude 
for war is aptitude for movement,” and he specifies that one must 
evaluate the strength of the army “as in mechanics, by its mass 
multiplied by its speed.” 

Hegel, admiring the French revolutionaries, writes in January 
180 / to a friend: “Every Frenchman has learned to look Death in 
the face. In particular, he compares the old institutions to “those 
children’s shoes, become too tight, that hinder the gait, and that the 
revolutionaries soon got rid of.” Always the unconscious dynamic 
metaphor, the new dialectics of the battlefield transcribed in philo- 
sophical and political terms. The under-equipped French soldier, 
actually looks his Death in the face— in the black, gaping hole of 
the cannon toward which he throws himself. This “army of 
dwarves” (Goethe) would need “seven-league boots”: “a troop of 
dwarves, when we expected to see giants in Germany.” But this was 
understandable, since their probable size had been calculated on the 
basis of their road speed. The Germans had imagined long strides 
taken by huge individuals. They hadn’t counted on the new factor: 


From Street Fight to State Right / 47 


2 


the inordinate development of the kinetic energy of the revolutionary 
masses. This discourse likens the acquisition of high speeds of 
assault, of invasion, even of explosion, to the “mechanics” of a 
revolution symbolized primarily by the conquest of the streets, then 
“liberating” itself on the highway. 

Significantly, every totalitarian combat will repeat this proce- 
dure. The German National Socialists, enemies of the 
bourgeoisie — or at least claiming to be in order to mobilize the 
dromomaniacs of the Brown Shirts — take over the German State, 
city by city, or rather street by street, before spreading highway by 
highway toward the neighboring territories, as if the German 
masses, “set in motion” by their leaders’ dynamic declarations, could 
no longer be stopped. 

After the conquest of the streets and the massacre of the Brown 
Shirts, the National Socialist motor will nonetheless come back to its 
ordinary drivers: the lower- and middle-class administrators; the big 
capitalism that, since the 1920s, had furnished it with important sub- 
sidies; the Reichswehr and the vehicles of Rommel and Guderian, 
carrying the military front far off, “where the tanks are.” With the 
National Socialist lightning-war, the old, outmoded frontier wall 
disappears, ostensibly replaced by the rapid path. Already, the 
German nation is no longer exactly where its famous boots — the 
symbol of its army — fall, but rather under the tracks of its tanks, 
in the motor force of its “steel front.” As Ratzel wrote at the end 
of the nineteenth century, “War consists in advancing your 
boundaries over the other’s territory.” The front is now no more 
than a war isobar reviving ancient rites of foundation. But for the 
dromocrat of total war, the once-so-coveted city is already no 
longer in the city. Warsaw, archaically declared an “open city,” is 
destroyed in September by air raids. 



From Highway Right to State Right 


The attack changed with the invention of machines to destroy. 

— Errard, known as Bar le Due 

AS SOON AS it takes power, the Nazi government offers the German 
proletariat sport and transport. No more riots, no need for much 
repression; to empty the streets, it’s enough to promise everyone the 
highway. This is the “political” aim of the Volkswagen, a veritable 
plebiscite, since Hitler convinced 170,000 citizens to buy a VW 
when there still wasn’t a single one available. The “NSKK” ( National 
Socialistisches Krafifahr Korps: the National Socialist automobile 
corps) is organized locally, according to the categories of privately- 
owned cars. It soon gathers half a million drivers and trains them to 
drive over every kind of terrain, -to shoot while driving, etc. Every 
member of these “sporting” clubs thus returns, in this exercise, to 
the premonitory techniques of Bonnot’s and A1 Capone’s vehicular 
crimes. But if it is true that in 1941 Brecht, in The Resistable Ascent 
of Arturo Ui, was content to make a gangster Hitler’s double, the 
similarities nonetheless go beyond simple parody. The American 
migrant’s race to power is, like the fascist tragedy or the anarchistic 
adventure of Bonnot in 1911, inseparable from the revolution in 
transportation. Like Mussolini and Hider, the great figures of American 


48 / Speed and Politics 


49 


gangsterism begin in the street where they wander as beggars, as 
foreigners — the famous Jim Colosimo began as a streetsweeper and, 
like many of his compatriots, naturally passed over the threshold of 
the political shop as an electoral agent, a door-to-door salesman. 

Later, the municipalities remain under the influence of the 
“brown troop” of their S.A. for, there as well, the automobile 
apotheosis of the 1920s, with its kidnappings, its shootings, its 
street battles, the wild chases of its armored cars, is but a technical 
episode in the dromocratic assault on the city and its wealth by a 
migrant mass come from Europe or Asia — before it becomes the 
Assault on the American State itself. But wasn’t A1 Capone supported 
on the national scale by the Republican Party? And didn’t he owe his 
“training” to his voluntary service in the U.S. Army? 

The unknown troops of gangsters will furthermore be spot- 
lighted during the last war at the time of the Italian liberation, and 
its men revealed as “good American citizens.” 

On another level, we can understand how the American govern- 
ment will survive the economic crisis of the 1930s and cure the 
masses of their “temptation of the streets.” Here as well the experience 
of the gangster-dromocrats is fairly instructive. The stroke of genius 
will consist in doing away with the direct repression of riots, and the 
political discourse itself, by unveiling the essence of this discourse: 
the transportation capacity created by the mass production of auto- 
mobiles (since 1914 with Ford) can become a social assault, a 
revolution sufficient and able to modify the citizen’s way of life by 
transforming all the consumer’s needs, by totally remodeling a terri- 
tory that (need we be reminded of it?) at the beginning had no more 
than 400 kilometers of road. 

Doctor Helmut Klotz notes in 1937 that “the National Socialist 
Automobile Corps is an organization that, within strict boundaries, 



50 / Speed and Politics 


could immediately become useful to the motorization of the German 
Army.” If he thinks that motorization presents only a limited advan- 
tage over long distances, he nonetheless recognizes that over a short 
distance it has the power to increase the Assault Forces strength to an 
extraordinary degree. 

On the shores across the way, the perpetual transformation of 
the barbarous esthetic of the mass-produced American car, rhe 
provocative excess of its body, of its ornaments, manifest the per- 
manence of the social revolution (progress toward the “American 
way of life”). But at the same time, this great automobile body has 
been emasculated, its road holding is defective and its powerful 
motor is bridled. Just as for the laws on speed limits, we are talking 
about acts of government, in other words of the political control of 
the highway, aiming precisely at limiting the “extraordinary power 
of assault that motorization of the masses creates. 

This frustration inflicted on the driver (who is suddenly 
deprived of the “high” of high speeds as he is of alcohol), this 
vehicular prohibition is also the constitution by the State of a new 
beyond: I here were literally millions of youngsters who could 

drive cars, or repair them, who could build their own radio sets and 
communicate as hams all over the world (experts in cross-country 
motorcycle and circulation), a whole generation of competent 
resourceful mechanics and electricians,” remarks V. Bush in 1949 in 
Modern Arms and Free Men. “Every corner garage, every radio club, 
was a sort of center of training, training that could be readily trans- 
formed in a short time, when the test came, into the ability to 
operate the complex implements of war.” 

This permanent exploitation of the ignorant masses’ aptitude 
for movement as a social solution is not peculiar to industrialized 
nations. The problem of shoes had been posed to civilian industry 


From Highway Right to State Right / i 


1 

I 




by the mass armies before that of cars. In 1792 the Supply Corps are 
able to furnish the barefoot troops with 200 pairs of shoes, when 
they would need 80,0007 Nonetheless, since “walking is a strategic 
instrument even apart from military engagement,” as we saw, this 
kind of Assault is, first launched against Time and can be realized 
theoretically even when the material means are lacking. 

Currently, the opposition parties are fighting about the “trans- 
portation time” of the workers. Here again, it’s a question of “time 
saved,” and we return to the origins of social “metamorphosis.” We 
are here at the level of the “revolution of three eights” so dear to the 
men of 1 848 — eight hours of work, eight of sleep, eight of leisure 
time. A more remarkable fact is that this demand, when it is made, 
has from the outset had the singular merit of creating unity between 
all the parties, in every revolutionary movement, from the moder- 
ates to the extremists. This “time war” waged by the workers “has all 
the advantages of a revolutionary demand without any of the draw- 
backs.” 2 Thus the Soviet republic decides to introduce it in autumn 
1917, and the German republic in 1918. 

The French republic, at the end of the war, fears a bloody May 
1. And in fact, for that day in 1919, an enormous parade is again 
being organized, and the government knows that the only watch- 
word will be “eight hours.” But hadn’t the Socialist Party heads just 
distinguished themselves in the responsibilities of power? Hadn’t 
one of them headed the Ministry of Weapons? To grant the “eight 
hours” was thus to “preserve a definitive seal, to keep in peacetime 
what had existed in wartime: a sacred bond. ” 

On May 1, 1919, the proletariat is again demobilized; it has just 
left the glacis of the trenches and once more finds itself "facing 
death” in the glacis of the city streets. After the hugs and kisses of 
the first days, what was taken for civilian “ingratitude ' toward the 


52 / Speed and Politics 


front lines is only a return to normalcy, to the citizen’s basic distrust 
of and disdain for the masses of gyrovagues regaining their freedom 
of movement, again becoming available for the political battle... 

In 1936 the true nature of these “eight hours of leisure,” which has 
until then remained mysterious, is revealed: leisure means paid vaca- 
tion, and paid vacation means travel-^ven the “last voyage,” as was 
strangely underlined by a famous song of the so-called euphoric 
Popular Front. A revolution in transportation, not in happiness— 
toward campsites, youth hostel/barracks; camps everywhere, the great 
camp of territory. But isn’t the Spanish Civil War-about to be declared, 
and French non-intervention to become the tomb of the Popular 
Front that stops dead by refhsing the “beyond” of this final voyage? 

1 he abusive manipulation of the dromocratic discourse by the 
men of the political bourgeoisie should have warned us long ago 
about their true revolutionary intentions. 

1 he events ol 1789 claimed to be a revolt against subjection, that 
is, against the constraint to immobility symbolized by the ancient 
feudal serfdom (which furthermore persisted in certain regions)— a 
revolt against arbitrary confinement and the obligation to reside in 
one place. But no one yet suspected that the “conquest of the freedom 
to come and go” so dear to Montaigne could, by a sleight of hand, 
become an obligation to mobility. The “mass uprising” of 1793 was the 
institution of the first dictatorship of movement, subdy replacing the 
freedom of movement of the early days of the revolution. 

The reality of power in this first modern State appears beyond the 
accumulation of violence as an accumulation of movement. In short, 
on July 14, 1789, the taking of the Bastille was a truly Foucaldian error 
on the part of the people of Paris: the famous symbol of imprisonment is 
already an empty fortress, the rioters discovering with astonishment that 
theres no one left to “liberate” behind its formidable walls. 


From Highway Right to State Right / 53 


The strategic schema of the revolution gives the two dominating 
classes their specific proletariat: the “nation on the march” of the mass 
army’s military proletariat sent out on the “highway territory,” and an 
industrial proletariat, a “worker’s army,” as it is called, that remains 
enclosed in the vast camp of the national territory. We can thus clearly 
distinguish two functions (or rather, functionings) of the thus-mobi- 
lized proletarian base, for never were the terms of proletarianization 
more radically set than by the Convention in its decree of February 
1793: “The young shall go to war,” while “married men, women and 
children will be forced to work in manufacturing” (arms, clothing, 
tents, bandages, etc.) — in short, logistical provisions. We see, then, 
that the new commercial bourgeoisie tends to enrich itself by amassing 
the productive movements (actions) of the industrial proletariat (the 
bourgeoisie of the Gironde and the war suppliers, the Swiss bank with 
Perregaux, etc.), while the military class amasses the destructive act of 
the mobile masses, and the production of destruction is accomplished 
by the proletariat’s power of assault. 

History shows that the decay of the enclosed bourgeoisies neces- 
sarily marks the decline of the productive masses and the rise in the 
State of methods of military proletarianization. In its doings, the 
Marxist State, for example, first appears as a dictatorship of motor 
functions, a totalitarianism very carefully programming and exploiting 
every form of mass movement. According to the rare witnesses, after 
the fall of Phnom Penh Cambodia becomes a “vast camp,” and they 
rail against Marx and the Soviets as “inventors of the gulag” — whereas 
in reality it is only an outburst of the movement of military prole- 
tarianization. In fact, according to their own expression, the Khmer 
Rouges see the civilian populations of their own country, its mil- 
lions of men, women and children, as “prisoners of war.” The new 
leaders of Cambodia apply — to the letter, it seems — a memoir left 


54 / Speea anc Politics 





twenty-five years earlier to the Sorbonne by Kieu Samphan. Thus we 
know where the virus that is ravaging this unfortunate country 
comes from: the utopian schema of the Cambodian revolution is 
only the antithesis of the bourgeois revolution. The large cities were 
brutally emptied of their inhabitants, who were massacred or thrown 
out into the countryside; certain neighborhoods were razed, replaced 
y rice fields; there is no communication between city and country 
Ae only inhabitants of the depopulated city now are several infantm 
battalions, the Khmer leaders and certain diplomatic missions. More 
than a revolution, it’s the tragic end of the siege on the communal 
fortress, finally submerged by its assailants. 

In liberated” Vietnam, they discover other kinds of proletarian 
mobilization: after the fall of Saigon, certainly, a primary concern of 
the revolutionary armies was to put “unworthy” elements such as 
prostitutes or the lazy black market dealers of the great Southern 
tty to work on logistical reconstruction (of strategic roads, raid- 
roads, bridges, etc.). But it was also to teach its youth, decked out 
m new uniforms, to “mime” its joy at being liberated-thus teach- 
ng n the simplicity of a power that comes down to the constraint 
and housebreaking of bodies. The dictatorship of the proletariat is 
on y this dictatorship of movement (of the act) that is revealed by 
t e great totalitarian holidays with their immense kinetic crowds. 

he spartakiades and gymnastic celebrations are always given a place 
of honor in the Eastern bloc countries, just as they were in the time 
of fascism: this synchronization integrates thousands of individuals 
into geometric ensembles as did, once upon a time, the square” of 
mi itary maneuvers. The crowd’s dynamism becomes a kaleidoscopic 
decoration, voluntarily forming slogans or gigantic portraits of the 
arm leaders, allowing the revolutionary militant to become for an 
stant a part of Mao s or Stalins body. 


From Highway Right to State Right / 55 


But even more interesting are the rehabilitation camps which the 
Vietnamese, after the Chinese, are evidently so proud of, since they 
will supposedly eliminate from the system bloody repression and 
brutal punishment. These camps, to which they send men without 
judgment, should warn us by their very medical designation: rehabil- 
itation has to do with the mechanical programming of invalid or 
handicapped bodies; it claims to repair them. The ideological delin- 
quent or dissident is no longer considered a political opponent; he is 
not allowed the preferential psychiatric treatment accorded by the 
Russians or the Americans to their intellectuals. Materialism reaches 
its absolute form, since even the possiblity of granting importance to 
an opposing thought, to a differing concept, is totally eliminated. 
The dissident is a body, his dissidence a postural crime — for example, 
his indolence, his lasciviousness. Ostensibly, there are hardly any 
more crimes of opinion, only crimes of gesture. The confession is 
superceded: bodies are guilty of being out of synch, they have to be 
put back in the part}' line, at the speed of an entire population in 
maneuvers, for whom everything is an opportunity for public 
physical exercise, from the classic handling of arms to relaxation and 
gymnastics in the street, in the camps, in the factories, in team sports 
and dance, telluric and ecological guard duty, etc. 3 

During the Chinese cultural revolution, one often saw a kind of 
embarrassment on the faces of Mao and Chou En-lai before those 
millions of individuals brandishing, like so many robots, the “little 
red book.” Was the revolution of civilization desired by the poet going 
to be reduced to this gymnastic group doubled by a mass denunci- 
ation campaign that was posted on the walls of Peking, like the Paris 
Commune one hundred years earlier (a police state, Cluseret called 
it), like the Cambodian revolution with its “kang-Chhlop?” Was 
socialism going to be reduced to a socialization of “intelligence?” 


56 / Speed and Politics 



It is understandable that the political revolution ends up redis- 
tributing police functions (powers) to all the militants as if they were 
so many agents of the military highway patrol, harnessed under the 
anarn regime to the establishment of social transparency, to the 
observation of postures and movements not conforming to the social 
corpus— but also observation of the territorial body, as in telluric 
surveillance; a kind of ecological police that revives urban control, 
and seems for the powers that be to be a solution of the future. 

Castro trading in his sloppy guerrilla garb for a uniform a la 
Pinochet, Brezhnev dressing up as a marshal, the massive presence 
of overdecorated military leaders in every socialisr grandstand in the 
world tell us: the ultimate capitalizes on the productive act, the true 
dictators of movement— are them. Its from them, and not from 
vague philosophers or ideologues, that the political idea of nations 
on the move was born in 1789— the masses of the new military 
proletariat becoming projectiles toward the middle of the nineteenth 
century with the triumph of industrial artillery and the spread of 
machine warfare. Heavy cannons,” writes Trotsky in 1914, “instill 
in the working classes the idea that when you cannot get around an 
obstacle, you can still break through it; the static phases of their psy- 
chology then give way to the dynamic phases .” 

After Lenin, Mao will qualify the people as the “motor force of 
history” when the importance of the conquest of energy sources 
arises. The political metaphor follows closely behind logistical 
progress to the extent that it claims a place in History. Military 
science, like History, is but a persistent perception of the kinetics of 
vanished bodies; inversely, bodies can appear as vehicles of history, 
as its dynamic vectors. Napoleon III claimed that “for the man of 
war, the ability to remember is science itself.” 


From Highway Right to State Right / 57 


,y V - ; '5 iS: 






1 


From Space Right to State Right 


The creature bound by water is a creature in. vertigo. It dies at 
each instant; something of its substance is constantly collapsing. 
— Bachelard 


AN ENGLISH CARTOON from the nineteenth century shows Bona- 

B parte and Pitt cutting chunks out of an enormous globe-shaped 
pudding with their sabers, the Frenchman taking the continents 
while the Englishman claims the sea. 1 his is another way of parceling 
out the universe: rather than confronting each other on the same 
terrain, within the limits oi the battlefield, the adversaries choose to 
create a fundamental physical struggle between two types of 
humanity, one populating the land, the other the oceans. They 
invent nations that are no longer terrestrial, homelands in which no 
one could set foot; homelands that are no longer countries. The sea 
is open, the joining of the demos and the element of freedom (of 
movement). The “right to the sea,” it seems, is a particularly Western 
creation, just as, later, the right to air space will be the element in 
which Air Force Marshall Goering dreams of installing die fliegende 
nation, the Nazi demos. 1 “Every German must learn to fly... Wings 
hang dormant under men’s skins.” Watching the launch of the first 
rockets. Hitler, who feels military defeat coming, tells Dornberger, 


61 


1 

1 


“If I had believed in your work, there would have been no need for 
war. . — or at least there would have been no need for combat! 

To defeat, without fighting, a continental adversary who con- 
stantly exhausts himself by rushing into the spatial and temporal 
limits of the terrestrial battlefield is, as we know, what England will 
manage to do. Hitler, like Napoleon, will be defeated by th e fleet in 
being, 1 which will constantly draw its victory from its inaccessibility 
to combat, from its abandonment of the harmful principle that we 
must attack as soon as the enemy is in sight, that we must shorten 
the distance between them and us. The fleet in being is logistics 
taking strategy to its absolute point, as the art of movement of unseen 
bodies-, it is the permanent presence in the sea of an invisible fleet 
able to strike no matter where and no matter when, annihilating 
the enemy’s will to power by creating a global zone of insecurity in 
which it will no longer be able to “decide” with certainty, to 
want — in other words, to win. Thus, it is above all a new idea of 
violence .that no longer comes from direct confrontation and 
bloodshed, but rather from the unequal properties of bodies, 
evaluation of the number of movements allowed them in a chosen 
element, permanent verification of their dynamic efficiency. If 
Napoleon judged an army’s strength in mechanical terms, Maurice 
de Saxe, one of the first on the European continent, understood 
that violence can be reduced to nothing but movement “I am not in 
favor of battle,” he states. “I am persuaded that an able general can 
wage war his whole life long without being forced to do battle .” 
Nonetheless, in Western Europe, in a restricted and uneven terrain, 
one could not claim to “melt away the enemy” without eventually 
being driven to direct confrontation between ever larger military 
masses. German incarceration is the best example of this historical ter- 
ritorial constraint, which created the brief and bloody war-mongering 



62 / Speed and Politics 


of Prussian theory. On rhe immense nautical glacis, on the other 
hand, the home fleet could elude batde almost indefinitely; it was not 
forced by the adversary into desperate combat as long as it stayed out 
of reach, all the while remaining present. 

Not to be driven to desperate combat, but to provoke a pro- 
longed desperation in the enemy, to inflict permanent moral and 
material sufferings that diminish him and melt him away-, this is the 
role of indirect strategy, which can make a population give up in 
despair without recourse to bloodshed. As the old saying goes, 
“Fear is the cruelest of assassins: it never kills,. but keeps you from 
living.” After all, the invention of happiness, that new idea in 
urope according to Saint-Just, was perhaps no more for the con- 
tinentals than a way of resisting the moral constraint come from 
the sea, the loss of their substance. 

In 1914, it took the Allied blockade two years before the German 
civilians felt the initial effects, but these effects lasted well after the 
end of the terrestrial combat and were an indirect factor in Ger- 
many’s subsequent economic failure. It was this prolonged despair 
that provided the ground for the hot-headed politics of Nazism, for 
the fascist domestication of the German people. In the same way 
the rapid material and moral collapse that we are now seeing in 
Western Europe is the long-range result of the American geo-strategic 
turnaround, creating on our continent, from afar, a new economic 
and physiological crisis. 

Favored by the merchant populations, indirect strategy 
reproduced in another element the effects of the old communal 
pohorcetics. Like the ancient “state of siege,” it allowed one to 
indefinitely prolong the hostilities” against the totality of populations 
that are no longer “civilian” but “continental.” It represents the 
revival of capitalism because it is none other than the technical 


From Space Right to State Right / 63 


surpassing of the old fortified place, which was rendered obsolete 
and dismantled by the power of the new State armies. This is the 
answer to the exorbitant economic requirements of the continental 
military class, to its claim to dominate the flows of terrestrial traffic. 

In the final account, economic liberalism is a perfect illustra- 
tion of Errard de Bar-le-Duc’s dictum: “The attack changed with 
the invention of machines to destroy.” The bourgeoisie’s sudden 
resistance to the concept of territorial warfare becomes from then 
on the guiding principle of a capitalism that, by becoming 
amphibious, applies total warfare on the sea and in the colonies; 
that jumps literally from “the great immobile machine” into the 
“mobile machine,” making the oceans a “vast logistical camp ; that 
drags behind it a proletariat harnessed to the functioning of the 
naval vehicle, a proletariat of rowers who are the machines true 

engine, its accelerator in time of battle. 

Henceforth, it is no longer a question of crossing a continent 
or an ocean from one city to the next, one shore to the next. The 
fleet in being creates a new dromocratic idea: the notion of dis- 
placement without destination in space and time. It imposes the 
primordial idea of disappearance in distance, and no longer in the 
danger of cataclysm; it rushes non-stop toward the beyond. The 
end of the engine here becomes, necessarily and no matter how, the 
point of no return, the standard fate of the floating machine lost 
lock, stock and barrel, or simulating its own wreck, like those sub- 
marines that jettison fake debris and fuel to escape their pursuers, 
thus anticipating their actual disappearance; like those old warships 
hauled out to sea one last time to be sunk in the apotheosis of an 
ultimate explosion, the staging of great naval funerals where the 
vessel is sucked into the liquid funnel of the maelstrom sucked in 
by its own rush toward the point of no return. 


64 / Speed and Politics 



Gordon Pym and Moby Dick are only the anticipated narratives 
of the nuclear cruise. The strategic submarine has no need to go 
anywhere in particular; it is content, while controlling the sea, to 
remain invisible. But its hourly fate is already sealed. Furthermore, 
as soon as the fleet in being becomes a fundamental given of the 
Right to the Sea, the explorers, discoverers and raiders of every 
stripe, while continuing to seek uncharted lands, equally adhere to 
the invention of passages, in other words to the realization of the 
absolute, uninterrupted, circular voyage, since it involves neither 
departure nor arrival. The loop of no-return is traced in advance by 
the circular or triangular nautical routes of European mercantilism. 

Thus a new category of political rights was created on the oceans: 
the “right to the sea,” initially “an entity that was more emotional and 
poetic than rational,” they said. It is true that the Mediterranean 
cities — overpopulated, insular nations poor in goods and surface 
area, dreaming of “working the sea” by creating a nautical demos — 
appear unwilling to be subjected to ancient terrestrial law. The open 
sea was to compensate for every social, religious and moral con- 
straint, for every political and economic oppression, even for the 
physical laws due to the earth’s gravity, to continental crampedness. 

But the right to the sea very quickly became the right to crime, 
to a violence that was also freed from every constraint... Soon, the 
“empire of the seas” replaces the open sea. The seventeenth-century 
chronicler can see its fruits even from the shore, where reigns “the 
horrible industry of shipwreckers massacring and pillaging the 
survivors of shipwrecks that they provoke with their misleading 
fires...” On the high seas, he sees but “the excesses sanctioned by the 
very practices of the sea . . . The monstrous despotism that, in the 
name of commercial monopolies, aspires toward exclusive domina- 
on of the oceans... a kind of right to conquest exercised by the 


From Space Right to State Right / 65 


Dutch, after Venice, Spain and Lisbon.” And a little further on, he 
notes: “What is terrifying is that all these powerful nautical orga- 
nizations were not the doings of States, but almost a spontaneous 
product of these nations’ mercantile engineers, the State having 
played no further role other than to sanction them, to claim them 
for its own.” 

In the final account, it is not so surprising that a trafficker and 
buccaneer like Laffitte financed the publication of Marx’s mani- 
festo. His vision of the international State rising from society like 
“its product at a given moment in its evolution” rather closely 
resembles the spontaneous empire of the “sea rovers” from which 
comes the first industrial nation of the modern world. This totali- 
tarian State is located everywhere and nowhere; it is obsessed by 
commercial exchanges; it serves only economic interests, and is 
bent on devouring and destroying its adversaries’ goods. Its popu- 
lation has “broken loose from its moorings,” left the earth; the first 
to conform absolutely to Marx’s definition of the industrial prole- 
tariat: “Workers have no country. . .we must cut the umbilical cord 
that holds the worker to the earth.” 

In England, up until the nineteenth century, they recruit sailors 
by simply closing the ports under order of the king and rounding 
up the seamen. In seventeenth-century France, with the industrial- 
ization of naval warfare demanding an increasingly large personnel, 
they number and register the entire coastal population, declaring it 
“available and enrolled in a single, great army, serving by turns in 
war, in trade, and in land-development activities.” This is called the 
class system. This first operation of State-instigated military prole- 
tarianization, which only barely precedes the French Revolution, is 
like the masses’ first accession to public transport. There is also 
concern (rare for the time) about the new proletarian’s “nationality.” 


66 / Speed and Politics 



Deported from total war, he must justify his origins; if he is a 
foreigner, he must be naturalized within five years. Desertion is 
severely punished and the State practices the social control of 
families by declaring itself the “protector of women and children,” 
of conscripted workers. 

Nonetheless, here again, the expansion of war was such that 
proletarianization found itself associated with judicial and police 
repression: they recruited by luck of the draw, and the proletariat 
saw itself mixed in with the troop of deportees and galley slaves 
that the courts “manufactured” in large number under govern- 
mental pressure. 

In the seventeenth century, the naval proletariat is already, 
literally, a population of convicts, the “damned of the earth.” Marx 
and Engels’ new theoretical opposition to the followers of 
Proudhon is much like Colbert’s reflection deploring French 
inability to create an all-powerful naval empire, their backwardness 
in the domain of colonization: “No companies, as long as we con- 
tinue to imitate Marseilles... They would rather give up the best 
opportunity in the world than lose the pleasure of a country house. 
Moreover, they don’t want great vessels, but only little boats, so that 
everyone will have his own . . . ” 3 The creation of the right to the sea, 
as they conceive of it at the time, is ill compatible with the aptitude 
for terrestrial happiness, made of simplicity and independence, that 
is found in the South. In the same way, the social utopia will come 
less from class antagonism than Irom the hatred of the Earth, and 
we could make comparisons ad infinitum between the utopian 
project and the plans of the naval empire where Marx is buried/ 

But it seems more interesting to consider the chronometric 
aspect of this empire that displaces its violence in the invisibility of 
the nautical glacis, a floating nation that resembles that other Time 


From Space Right to State Right / 67 


machine, History. In fact, victory (decision) in the world without 
reference point or accident of the fleet in being requires that one be 
situated, if nowhere on Earth, then at least in Time — in other 
words, in planetary mechanics. For this simple reason, the English 
will long remain the best clockmakers in the world. Mastery over 
the sea demands that over Time; it requires you to “shoot for the 
moon,” as they used to say. 

So it is natural that the modern formula of popular war will 
take shape — through English influence on islanders (Paoli in 
Corsica under Louis XV) — in a nation of navigators: Spain versus 
the French empire. In fact, popular war is already no longer in a 
given territory. Rather, it advocates the dispersal of the army corps 
within society itself (the new soldier will be “like a fish in water,” 
and this allusion to the liquid element is hardly coincidental). Like 
the naval battle, popular war operates on the clash of dynamic 
bodies. It has to do with “the excesses sanctioned by the very 
practices of the sea,” with absolute violence, with the disappearance 
of morals and preexisting laws. Popular war is total. 

We have not paid enough attention, in Western History, to the 
moment when this transfer from the natural vitalism of the marine 
element (the ease with which one can lift, displace, glide weighty 
engines) to an inevitable technological vitalism 5 took place; the 
moment when the technical transport body left the sea like the 
unfinished living body of evolutionism, crawling out of its original 
environment and becoming amphibious. Speed as a pure idea without 
content comes from the sea like Venus, and when Marinetti cries 
that the universe has been enriched by a new beauty, the beauty of 
speed, and opposes the racecar to the Winged Victory of Samoth- 
race, he forgets that he is really talking about the same esthetic: the 
esthetic of the transport engine. The coupling of the winged 


68 / Scssd a"o Polrt.cs 



woman with the ancient war vessel and the coupling of Marinetti 
the fascist with his racecar, “ideal shaft crossing over the earth,” 
whose wheel he controls, emerge from this technological evolu- 
tionism whose realization is more obvious than that of the living 
world. The right to the sea creates the right to the road of modem 
States, which through this become totalitarian States. 

When Norman Angell states in The Great Illusion that war has 
become economically futile because it is no longer founded on flight 
at the expense of the “exterior group, ” in other words on portable 
wealth , but rather, henceforth, on credit and the commercial con- 
tract, he is mistaken in thinking that this must radically suppress the 
“conqueror”; his discourse is somewhat lacking in rigor. In fact, what 
is revealed by this change in the nature of wealth is only a change in 
the speed of world economy, the passage from the movable unit to 
the hourly unit: the war of Time. With the fleet in being, England 
concentrates its efforts on technical innovation in the domain of 
transportation, and more precisely on the manufacture of rapid 
engines. It draws from this both its economic superiority and the 
orientation that made it the first great industrial nation, the model 
for all the others — engendering “that primordial feeling of technical 
superiority that gets confused with a feeling of general superiority.” 
In fact, there was no “industrial revolution,” but only a “dromocratic 
revolution;” there is no democracy, only dromocracy; there is no 
strategy, only dromology. It is precisely at the moment when 
Western technological evolutionism leaves the sea that the substance 
of wealth begins to crumble, that the ruin of the most powerful 
peoples and nations gets under way — viz. Carter’s declarations about 
the end of the American dream. It is speed as the nature of dromo- 
logical progress that ruins progress; it is the permanence of the war 
of Time that creates total peace, the peace of exhaustion! 


From Space Right to State Right / 69 


The SST affair, followed by that of the Concorde, illustrate this 
system of ruin (so ruinous that the advanced States must band 
together in order to maintain the production of these machines that 
are subject only to the law of speed). As at the origins of the fleet in 
being, the upkeep of the monopoly demands that every new engine 
be immediately superseded by a faster one. But the threshold of 
speed is constantly shrinking, and the faster engine is becoming more 
and more difficult to conceive of. It is often obsolete even before 
being used; the product is literally worn out before being operated, 
thus surpassing “by speed” the entire profit system of industrial obso- 
lescence! When riches, accumulations and modes of production were 
freed from their enclosure, therefore, it was not to reach free enter- 
prise, their socialization, but to reach their own vehicular power , their 
maximum dynamic efficiency. This is the “futility” of wealth that 
disappeared in the essence of dromological progress. Western man 
has appeared superior and dominant, despite inferior demographics, 
because he appeared more rapid. In colonial genocide or ethnocide, 
he was the survivor because he was in fact super-quick (sur vif). The 
French word vif, “lively,” incorporates at least three meanings: 
swiftness, speed (vitesse), likened to violence — sudden force, abrupt 
edge {vive force, arete vive), etc. — and to life {vie) itself: to be quick 
means to stay alive {etre vif cest etre en vie ) ! 

With the realization of dromocratic type progress, humanity 
will stop being diverse. It will tend to divide only into hopeful 
populations (who are allowed the hope that they will reach, in the 
future, someday, the speed that they are accumulating, which will give 
them access to the possible — that is, to the project, the decision, the 
infinite: speed is the hope of the West) and despairing populations, 
blocked by the inferiority of their technological vehicles, living and 
subsisting in a finite world. 



Thus, the related logic of knowing-power, or power-knowledge, 
is eliminated to the benefit of moving-power — in other words the 
study of tendencies, of flows. This is so obvious that, in the last 
five years, they have stopped teaching geography in the French 
Military Academy and the police have started experimenting with 
the “criminostat.” 7 

Empires with colossal territories such as China, despite their 
attempts at “modernization,” have had to submit to this pure, new 
order without content since the nineteenth century, finding nothing 
to oppose the penetration with. And today, the Chinese and Viet- 
namese people’s armies are undergoing a' difficult revision, by 
splitting themselves into a technical (rapid) army and an army of 
the people, represented as “animal value” (slow), and therefore, 
more specifically, “survival value” in the event of a nuclear holo- 
caust. As to the latter, we could recall that in 1932 the Chinese 
population of Shanghai had already played this role: it was, in fact, 
among the first in the world to suffer Japanese experiments with 
massive air attacks aiming at the total destruction of urban centers. 
The German military command had also scrutinized the social 
fallout when elaborating their own “security plans”: false alarms, 
exercises, system of urban shelters, etc., which in the mind of the 
political leaders must have contributed largely to the psychological 
formation of the German citizenry. By a curious twist of fate, it is 
now the Chinese who have been greatly inspired by this national 
socialistic mobilization... 

In the war ofTime, the social “beyond” of populations has become 
the “beyond” of the zero-hour, as the revolutionary’s last hope. 

To extract a purely technological, military element from a pop- 
ulation in arms was thus a capital political decision for the Chinese 
leaders, for nowhere else had armies and populations remained so 


70 / Speed and Politics 


From Space Right to State Right / 71 


biologically associated, up to and including in the tools they used. 
This revolutionary unity is brutally destroyed by the discovery of 
other evidence. The class struggle is replaced by the struggle of 
the technological bodies of the armies according to their dynamic 
efficiency: air force versus navy, ground army versus police/politics, 
etc. A caricature of this situation has existed in Latin America for 


some time now. 




72 / Speed and Politics 


2 


Practical War 

! 

■■Opt -ty.-' I 

Hoorah! No more contact 
with the vile earth! 

— Marinetti, 1905 

IN 1914, the military high command in Europe was still following 
Clausewitz or Napoleon. It concentrated on exerting its will in a 
ground war of rapid penetration, of short and decisive battles. The 
advantage of this type of conflict was that it skirted around the 
problems posed by the military distribution of territories, since the 
logistical effort required would be of little importance, and espe- 
cially of little constancy — a war, in a sense, with no terrain, or at 
best having little to do with it! 

We are still in the mentality of the Vienna Congress; the 
European monarchic powers that feel the end coming give a final 
sign of life. Like Clausewitz in Vom Kriege, they try desperately 
to draw a line between absolute and total war. Total war is 
omnipresent; it is first waged on the sea because the naval glacis 
naturally presents no permanent obstacle to a vehicular movement 
of planetary dimensions. Nonetheless, this type of totalitarian 
conflict can be realized on the earth only on condition of setting 
up infra structures that are durable in ubiquity. As Vauban 



73 


remarks, we should be able to superimpose war onto all the 

inhabitable parts of the universe. 

“Ubique quo fas et gloria ducunt”: the English engineers 

ended up significantly reducing their motto to UBIQUE... 
“everywhere.” This means the universe redistributed by the mili- 
tary engineers, the earth “communicating” like a single glacis, as 
the infra structure of a future battlefield. 1 This is the world that 
is transformed “from a landscape as workshop into a planned 
landscape, an imperial space,” as Lukacs remarks about German 
socialism. When Renan welcomed Lesseps into the French Acad- 
emy, he reproached him “for having sought peace and found war” 
by making the Suez Canal a new Bosphorus. A century has passed 
without contradicting Renan’s prophecy; the penetration of the 
Suez isthmus is an old polytechnicians dream for which a num- 
ber of Saint Simonian engineers died. Its realization was then 
considered by the military experts a new index of reliability in the 
totality of international communications, a considerable acceler- 
ation point on the network of inferences of worldwide strategy. 
By “redesigning the map of the world,” they opened the way to 
the “transport of war” toward the East, as well as to the new vertical 
trusts. With the great geo-strategic revolution of the nineteenth 
century, social and economic organization begins to depend 
entirely on that of the space of activity as the place of transfer- 
ence, and the phenomenon of war begins to feed itself by creating 
the sources of its own conflicts and multiplying them: they are 
still dying for Suez or Panama. 

In 1914, however, rural, enclosed France was still scarcely 
favorable to the development of the military transport’s omnipres- 
ence; the conflict carried by its heavy mobile engines lost no time in 
sinking with them. War stopped being a brief, charming promenade, 



a touristic stroll. The adversaries bury each other and come to know 
battles without precedent, since they can last, as at Verdun, for an 
entire year — from February to December, 1916. Armies could no 
longer simply come and go. 

At this point, the French reaction is significant. They first 
want to maintain political distance, and they still come back to 
the communal schema as a guarantee of internal order. The 
country is cut in two by a demarcation line: a “civilian” France, 
the rear guard, with its democratic government, its economic and 
industrial activities, its new matriarchy of female suppliers (who 
will give the feminist struggle its dubious nature); and a “mili- 
tary” France, the army zones, fortified glacis where, Ferry notes: 
“The supreme commander is no longer a chief of war, but the 
administrator of a territory ’ 2 — a territory in which civilian power 
hoped to crystallize the battle and enclose its military proletariat 
in an absolute war, a war “without limitations in the use of vio- 
lence,” but one that would not spread, could not be brought into 
the interior. 

This is the war of attrition. For the high command, the enor- 
mous wear on the troops and material, the modern form of 
decimation, was still, at the beginning of the war, a gold star in a 
general’s career! It was considered a mark of the military comman- 
der’s great activity, of his personality, even of the orthodoxy of his 
art, in the jargon of the schools of war — “absence of goodhearted- 
ness,” “unlimited use of force,” which allow one, according to 
Clausewitz, not to retreat in the face of bloodshed. But here again, 
the Prussian general found himself rapidly outmoded, he who 
thought, along with many of his contemporaries, that the social 
situation of civilized States would finally render their wars much 
less cruel and destructive than those of other nations. 


74 / Speed and Politics 




Practical War / 75 


Only several months after the beginning of the hostilities, Ferry 
shows us how difficult it is — since one of the newest jobs for the 
personnel assigned the logistical task is the rational evaluation of the 
army’s obsolescence — to calculate the damage inflicted by the new 
industrial war fast enough to compensate in time for the pure and 
simple disappearance of the two parties on the battlefield, some- 
thing that had never been seen before. The voluntary war of 
attrition was both the first war of disappearance and the first of con- 
sumption: disappearance of men, material, cities, landscapes; and 
unbridled consumption of munitions, material, manpower. 

Little by little, the elegant battle plans and orders of attack give 
way to new considerations: consumption of grenades by trench 
yard, production programs, balance and evaluation of supplies — 
during an attack in 1917, for example, they consume 6,947,000 
explosive shells on the French side, or 28% of the existing stock. . . 
But they also speak in terms of “daily consumption of artillery.” The 
theory of the high command disappears in what is henceforth called 
“practical war” — that which makes war convenient, easier to use ; 
that which keeps it from getting bogged down in its own impos- 
siblities. The French Ministries of War and that of Weapons are 
separated, the latter headed by the famous Loucheur, who prefigures 
Bush and Speer, the technocrats of total war. 

The war of attrition marks a new threshold: bourgeois society 
had believed it could enclose absolute violence in the ghetto of the 
army zone but, deprived of space, war had spread into human 
Time— the war of attrition was also the war of Time. Like the 
troops of Year II, the mobile mass of 1914 had been thrown into 
battle with a cry of “ultreial” But the battle was finally reduced to a 
series of individual actions, a war of petty officers, a succession of 
brief runs toward death succeeding each other day by day, from 


76 / Speed and Politics 


month to month, at the same place; or else of “long vacations” for 
the immobile men, waiting for the end where they lay, nailed to the 
ground by the power of the bombardments. Proletarian lodging in 
the army zones” replaces the swamp of the “urban zone.” The no 
mans land has become a suburb, a neutralizing space in which the 
promise of movement is no longer accomplished, and the loss of 
movement for the national fortress is first the loss of good health, then 
death. Revolts and mutinies on the part of soldiers refusing the 
assault succeed the disorder of the urban riot, the stationing of the 
masses in the city, before becoming in the debacle “simple civil war,” 
as Engels had predicted to Lassalle — a rerouting toward the interior 
of the “proletariats torrent of energy” (Trotsky). In 1917 in France 
national war lost its old revolutionary prestige in the eyes of the 
masses, simply because it was no longer able to “advance.” It no 
longer reached the Assault s superior speed, no longer won the race 
against death, against the engine of war. 

The voyage of the masses once more took them from the street 
to the rail road, the street in which they paraded while singing and 
counting off steps before a city population applauding the departure 
of the fearsome armed mob. After that, the military livestock quickly 
jumped on the cattle wagon, but everything was over very fast. As 
Captain de Poix notes, So many times had I seen our infantry leave 
for battle, magnificent in their enthusiasm, only to be suddenly cut 
down by an unsuspected machine gun; in the space of several 
minutes the battlefield was littered with corpses.” 

I he good captain thus had the stroke of genius to remedy the 
troops stasis. I le conceived of armored cars going over all kinds of 
terrain, and, from November 25, 1915, he promoted the large scale 
manufacture of this new kind of war machine. By January 31, 1916, 
they built 400 assault tanks, and as soon as they appeared on the 


Practical War / 77 


battlefield their psychological effect was tremendous. The generals 
were soon screaming by the millions for those automotive forts, 
the new technical object that so perfectly realized a strategic phi- 
losophy obsessed by Frederick the Great’s dictum: “To win is to 
advance!” . Soon Ferry could write, before he himself was cut down 
in the attack off Vauxaillon, “French morale has reached an unprece- 
dented degree of exaltation. Last month, the soldiers on leave from 
Parnay found their leave too long, and they returned to the front as if 
they were going on vacation... They already saw themselves at the 
Meuse or the Rhine! I unleash my every dream..." 

Speed is the hope of the West; it is speed that supports the armies’ 
morale. What “makes war convenient” is transportation, and the 
armored car, able to go over every kind of terrain, erases the obstacles. 
With it, earth no longer exists. Rather than calling it an “all terrain 
vehicle, they should call it “sans terrain — it climbs embankments, 
runs over trees, paddles through the mud, rips out shrubs and pieces 
of wall on its way, breaks down doors. It escapes the old linear trajec- 
tory of the road or the railway. It offers a whole new geometry to 
speed, to violence. It is already no longer simply an auto-mobile, but 
also a projectile and launcher, while waiting to become a radio trans- 
mitter as well; it hurls both projectiles and itself. With it, once more, 
Death kills Death, since it victoriously opposes the fearsome German 
machine gun. Captain de Poix has a prophetic vision of a battlefield 
literally covered by the mass of these automotive forts. After leaving 
the street, the military proletariat loses contact with the road. From 
now on, anything can become a probable trajectory of its Assault. The 
batdefield has become like the naval glacis, without obstacles, entirely 
run by the rapid engines, the “batdeships of the earth. 

The war of attrition had, from lack of space, spread out into 
Time; duration was survival. All-terrain (or rather, sans-terrain) 



assault extends war over an earth that disappears, crushed under the 
infinity of possible trajectories. We suddenly find ourselves facing a 
new right to the earth.” Just as totalitarian as the right to the sea, it 
implies for the masses another phenomenology of becoming. The 
rush of Assault-mobiles prolongs the mad rush of auto-taxis leaving 
the Parisian pavement in 1914 and heading for the Marne, “the last 
romantic battle, in which the archaic part of the war came to an 
end (Jean de Pierrefeu). The speed of military transport is no 
longer only “a metaphor for a vertiginous passage of existential 
time. The speedometer of the assault engine is literally, for its 
passengers, an “existential quantifier,” a measure of sur-vival! 

It is interesting to note the attitude of the British high com- 
mand at this capital juncture in dromological progress: from the 
first continental assaults, this nautical people once more takes to 
the open sea, unconcerned about enclosing itself in an infrangible 
continental battle. “He prefers the war of machines”— they should 
say engines “to the war of chest beating,” goes a popular saying. 
They have 500,000 men on the sea and 3,000,000 in the arsenals 
and factories. If they participate with an obvious ill will in the 
hodge-podge of command, it is nonetheless understandable that 
they are the first to want to launch on the terrestrial battlefield, to 
the north of the Somme, the “battleships of the earth”— sans-terrain 
assault engines for which they will have a lasting affection, as we 
saw in the desert in 1942... 


78 / Speed and Politics 


Practical War / 79 



DROMOCRATIC SOCIETY 





■is 


9 


Unable Bodies 




Risk — but in comfort! 
— Marshal Goering 


1 


HERMAN GOERING BECAME a pilot in the First World War because 
he had a tendency toward rheumatism and thus, as a foot soldier, 
suffered from the long marches. 

In the course of the various battles, especially since the seven- 
teenth century, awareness had grown of the increasing problem of 
military infirmity. A flourishing industry developed: orthopedics. It 
was discovered that the damage caused by the war machines to the 
mechanics of the surviving bodies could be compensated for by 
other machines — prostheses. While in France the handicapped are 
exempt from military service, this is not the case in Germany: in 
1914, the German army had few or no exemptions, for it had 
decided to make physical handicaps functional by using each man 
according to his specific disability: the deaf will serve in heavy 
artillery, hunchbacks in the automobile corps, etc. Paradoxically, 
the dictatorship of movement exerted on the masses by the military 
powers led to the promotion of unable bodies. The use of the tech- 
nical vehicle is at this point so assimilated to that of the surgical 
prosthesis that it will be some time before the French military 


83 


command finally hands the tanks over to personnel other than the 
“one quarter sick with malaria, the rest rehabilitated young men 
who had never seen battle” (Renaudel’s report). 

In 1921, Marinetti metaphorizes about the armored car: the 
overman is over-grafted, an inhuman type reduced to a driving — and 
thus deciding — principle, an animal body that disappears in the 
superpower of a metallic body able to annihilate time and space 
through its dynamic performances. Vain attempts have been made 
to fit Marinetti’s works into various artistic and political categories; 
but Futurism in fact comes from a single art — that of war and its 
essence, speed. Futurism provides the most accomplished vision of 
the dromological evolutionism of the 1920s, the measure of super- 
speed! In fact, the human body huddling in the “steel alcove” is not 
that of the bellicose dandy seeking the rare sensations of war, but of 
the doubly-unable body of the proletarian soldier. Deprived, as he has 
always been, of will, he now requires physical assistance from a 
vehicular prosthesis in order to accomplish his historical mission, 
Assault. The dromomaniac’s kinetic superpower is suddenly devalued. 
The war of attrition had already shown the disdain in which a mobile 
mass reduced to inaction was held, and the nature of the treatment 
reserved for it. Practical war revealed its impotence as a dominant 
dromocratic agent, the motor and producer of speed on the con- 
tinent. Nonetheless, the world war having sanctioned the high 
commands intellectual bankruptcy and the triumph of industrial 
warfare, everyone felt an insatiable need for manpower. The processes 
of military proletarianization proved more than ever to be indissocia- 
ble from those of industrial proletarianization for the generals who, 
despite themselves, had become “territorial administrators.” 

Ferry states: “Now everyone knows that the structure of a battlefield 
exists... The greatest possible technical distribution of terrain is 


84 / Speed and Politics 


necessary, and if it takes 200,000 men to bring it about, then the 
government will negotiate with its allies.” “Countries such as Italy 
and Portugal have admirable reserves of men. . . Here you would not 
even notice the shortages imposed by the war,” writes an official 
emissary in 1916. Governments bargain over and hastily exchange 
their working-class cattle, bragging about “their resistance to low 
temperatures, their sobriety and their aptitude for labor.” They dip 
heavily into colonial properties, Creoles or Blacks from Senegal, 
workers from Morocco, and especially tireless navies from Indochina 
by the tens of thousands — other natives such as the Madagascans 
preferably being reserved for combat... If naval warfare, by 
becoming permanent and total, engendered one of the first mass 
mobilizations, the perspective of total warfare on the continent, as 
early as in 1914, obviously requires a new social project, an original 
type of proletarianization. 

Practical war divides the Assault into two phases, the first of which 
is the creation of the original infrastructure of future battlefields. This 
infrastructure consists of new railroads and stations, telephone 
installations, enlargement of roads and tracks, the parallel lines of 
departure, evacuation routes, shelters, etc. The countryside, the earth 
is henceforth given over, definitively consecrated to war by the 
cosmopolitan mass of workers, an army of laborers speaking every 
language, the Babel of logistics. 1 Both the arsenal and the war per- 
sonnel already take on a kind of peaceful, or rather political, air; they 
return to highway surveillance. Already we find the beginnings of 
what will become deterrence: reduction of power in favor of a better 
trajectory, life traded for survival. The status quo is the depletion of 
the earth. In 1924, the military monk Teilhard de Chardin writes in 
Mon univers\ We still need mightier and mightier cannons, bigger 
and bigger bartleships, to materialize our aggression on the world." 


Unable Bodies 7185 


Dromocratic intelligence is not exercised against a more or less 
determined military adversary, but as a permanent assault on the 
world, and through it, on human nature. The disappearance of 
flora and fauna and the abrogation of natural economies are but the 
slow preparation for more brutal destructions. They are part of a 
greater economy, that of the blockade, of the siege; strategies, in 
other words, of depletion. 

The economic war currently ravaging the earth is but the slow 
phase of declared war, of a rapid and brief assault to come, for this 
is what perpetuates, in non-combat, military power as class power. 
From time immemorial, the caste of hunter-raiders has been 
unproductive, although it provided the group’s food. Along with 
the science of weapons, it has always fostered methods of deple- 
ti on — what today we call food power. Thus when Venice, that 
floating nation, that country in which no one had ever “set foot, 
stopped being the premier economic and naval power because of 
the discovery of America and the new Atlantic politics of Europe, 
it providently turned back to the interior, to agrarian power and 


terrestrial property, for it knew that the loss of sea power meant an 
immediate threat of suffering food power , always the law of the two 
types of humanity. 

In the same way, the United States, after their first failure at 
intensive conquest in the 1930s ( declare peace in the world ), 
today lead a war without mercy against Green Europe (campaign 
against the peasants, control of food industries, grain embargoes, 
etc.). It is precisely the “futility of wealth” that provides the 
ground for conquest. American dollar-politics is only one sign of 
the intensive growth of American military might, momentarily 
robbed of its extensive growth by the failure in Vietnam and the 
nuclear standoff. But here again we must admire the speed with 


{ 


86 / Speed and Politics 




which the U.S. replaced their geo-strategic bombardments on 
North Vietnam (systematic destruction of flora and fauna in the 
rural environment) with an impressive abandonment of techno- 
logical material when they retreated from the terrain, making their 
enemies their best customers, as General Giap’s recent declarations 
could lead us to believe. 2 

Timeless dromological methods: in the seventeenth-century, 
when Colbert launches his economic politics with the idea of pro- 
moting “national wealth,” a “national product,” he prepares the 
way for Louvois’ war-effort by “making sure needs are created,” by 
triggering in his neighbors “the prodigious consumption of his so 
numerous products,” as Sir William Temple says. 

For his war-sites, Louvois was directly inspired by Roman 
proletarianization, while Colbert reproduced the Athenian eco- 
nomic system that had finally brought about the collapse of 
Lacedaemonian power. As Lyautey writes in 1901, “The tactic of 
economic penetration alone is worth every other taught in the mil- 
itary academy.” The dromocratic expansion of Greece had also 
found itself blocked at every turn by the military status quo. The 
native barbarians had learned to organize militarily in the West. 
The other colonial satellites collaborated in Greek politics. It is at 
this point that Athens renounced its system of extensive (rapid) 
penetration to adopt a system of intensive (slow) penetration; 
external military engagements were replaced by the abrogation of 
natural economies in the interior (agrarian reform, urbanization, 
creation of workshops and factories, etc.). 

Athenian currency , spread over the entire Mediterranean basin, 
pouncing on the economies of the big cities, created such an 
inflation of exchanges that it became fatal — notably to Sparta’s 
equilibrium, which for its part had chosen the opposite solution: 


Unable Bodies / 87 


conservation of the State apparatus by abolishing military and 
monetary movement . 3 

Aristotle wrote the epitaph to Lycurgus’ system: “The essential 
object of any social system must be to organize the military insti- 
tution like all the others .” 

In Sparta the opposite happened. In the first Hellenic democ- 
racy we already find most of the great Western themes, except for 
the main one: mobility. Whereas everything was sacrificed to make 
the State a single war machine, the eventuality of its being mobi- 
lized in a real conflict seemed fearsome to the Lacedaemonians, as 
if the hazards and uncertainties of battle would destroy their overly 
precise military mechanism . 4 

The Spartans have been called a people without history. In 
reality, by their hostility to every form of constitutional meta- 
morphosis, they refused History as the kinetic reference of their 
existence. First, by not turning toward the sea and its vehicular 
empires — thus separating themselves from the totality of Hellenic 
cities — to go settle in the very heart of Greece and colonize the 
Messenians, Greeks like themselves. Then, by eluding for almost 
two centuries after the Lycurgean experiment the consequences of 
their military might, by fleeing those of their victories. And it will 
be precisely the Spartan military State’s victory over Athens that 
will subvert its perfection: “The Lacedaemonians might date the 
beginning of their corruption from their conquest of Athens, and 
the influx of gold and silver among them that thence ensued” 
(Plutarch, “Life of Agis”). 

What the armies couldn’t do was accomplished by economic 
warfare. The dilemma of the status quo, of military non-intervention, 
was resolved once and for all, not only for the Mediterraneans, but 
for the Western world to come. 


88 / Speed and Politics 






By the middle of the third century, following the collapse of the 
Lycurgean immobile machine, there remained only about a hun- 
dred Spartans who still owned shares of the State. The rest of the 
population, says Plutarch, became a miserable crowd without legal 
status, a social mass that the military State had taught to live only 
for a war that would never come, and that from now on didn’t 
know what to do with its existence. When the State itself survived 
as no more than a dream of the past, a handful of remaining sadistic 
customs, the Spartan world sank entirely into anomie. 

The West persists in repeating Plutarch’s lesson, “obeying a law 
that it doesn’t even know, but that it could recite in its sleep.” Stasis 
is death really seems to it to be the general law of the World. The 
dromocrat constantly stifles the democrat of Lycurgus’ — and 
Mao’s — original revolution. It is enough to hear the speeches of 
today’s Chinese leaders about “consumer goods” to know that the 
old thinker did no more than delay the institution in China of the 
West’s fearsome system of intensive growth, and whether it is 
conveyed by orthodox Marxism or liberalism is of little import! 
Just as Hitler could only begin lightning warfare through the eco- 
nomic system of Doctor Schacht, and Roosevelt could only begin 
total warfare through the New Deal. 

Stasis is death, the general law of the world. The State-fortress, 
its power, its laws exist in places of intense circulation. In a recent 
work, Georges Huppert attacks the common notion that gen- 
eral and positive sense of history appeared in the eighteenth century 
and gave rise to important works only in the nineteenth . 5 He cites 
the example of a group of erudites, mostly of the legal profession, 
who, toward the middle of the sixteenth century, proposed (in the 
words of one of them, La Popeliniere) “an idea of perfect history.” 
At the same time, the new European States were tending among 


Unable Bodies / 89 



themselves to reestablish the notion of legitimate war (or legalistic 
war), in the Roman manner (Livy, I, 32, 5—15). The States histor- 
ical ideality comes out as soon as war itself is reborn in ideal forms, 
is technically distinguished (thanks to centralism) from a simple 
punitive expedition, and tears itself loose from local compromises 
to approach a rigorous original concept. 

In fact, history progresses at the speed of its weapons systems. 
At the end of the fifteenth century, it is still for Commynes a stable 
memory, a model to be reproduced. Annals are seasonal, like the 
war that returns every year in springtime. Linear time is eliminated, 
as it was from the ancient fortress in which the enemy Time 
was beaten by the static resistance of the construction materials 
by duration. 

Historical creation also begins to function like the ancient war 
machines that carried out their destructive movements on the spot 
even after the invention of the ballista and the catapult (around 
405, at the siege of Motza). If Hegel “gets bored seeing Livy repeat 
for the hundredth time descriptions of battles against the Volscians, 
occasionally limiting his narrative to: ‘In this year, war was suc- 
cessfully waged against the Volscians,’” complaining of the 
“abstract representations,” it is because the historical content is 
literally that of a communique (the first ephemeris of projected 
societies, comparable to what, in the nineteenth century, the 
monotonous detail of secret police reports represents for a sociology 
that becomes more widespread). Here we are dealing with works 
that are practical in ways that Hegel could not imagine. 

And if Livy endlessly resumes the litany of his commentary, it 
is because repetition is then the means of reaching vaster fields, a 
work-in-progress. 6 The narrative material can only function by 
being repeated one hundred times. Through repetition, it eliminates 


chance and makes the Reason in these stones a war machine that 
deploys its forces by multiplying them. In the same way, it is under- 
standable that just when artillery and military highway surveillance 
became part of the State system, especially under Sully, historical 
language passed literally from the comparative to the positive ; in 
other words, with no comparison of intensity! 

Accession to history becomes accession to movement, distant 
result of the accession to power of those “border prowlers, idlers of 
Apocalypse, living free of material cares at the edge of their domesti- 
cated abyss” (Julien Gracq), populations that appear and disappear 
on the borders of the Roman Empire, “thumbing their noses at war,” 
on whom, as Livy adds, “it clearly cannot be imposed. ” 

In the beginning of our era, the wave of dromocratic elites 
comes from Germany, from the banks of the Danube or elsewhere, 
and finally breaks over Western Europe. Suddenly, it is no longer 
might that makes right, but invasion, the power-to-invade. The 
hierarchy of the raid, born on the road during the “unbridled 
exodus of the mob of hunter-raiders, is superseded by the protocol 
of the stopover and of apportionment.” When finally this dromoc- 


ratic power abusively settles on the European territory, it still 
doesn’t change the nature of its constitutional schema and, in guise 
of being dispersed, the organization of feudal society will remain 
that of troops on the march. 

The relations between the various lords were exactly defined, 
and despite haggling and petty bickering, when an important war 
or a crusade regrouped this ever-armed milieu, every knight knew 
exactly where his place was.” The hierarchic distribution is already 
a marching order, the layout of territory a theater of operations. 

The architecture of command posts plays the same part as that of 11 

the pelagic acropolis or of the Algerian blockhouse. The feudal J 


Unable Bodies / 91 




[0k b semi-colonial, since i. perfectly distinguishes ,he ma<m, 

1 1 hy the military occupret from its We. * 

lh ' I! We, *** ~ * -* “ ^ * 

°^ r lts dimenswns - , else as Colonel 

The ancient cadastral law prolonged nothing else 

Barrader writes in Fossatum Africae: “Centunatton is the very 

p„„e, of invasion and* moye> t0 displace himself, 

^^t^lep^flandWdicho^ 
the geography of the inhabitant and , ha, of the passer-by. The « 
ofthl Roman path ,s Wly no mote than a — £ « 

Lid say, by the army, the troop of horsemen, "that luxury-people 
The semi-colonial (unction has always been a protection ra 
which the productive mass' safety is guaranteed W *e ",bu ' 
remuneration for effective "a ‘ “ £ 

1" — we, which is ca,e„ 

;:,o Lolish its interna, constitution by founding hemdnaty 
.and laws, or even by enlarging the toya. 

ZediaLligious ideolog.es, money knowledge external com- 
metce, modes of ttanspottation and information, . 


92 / Speed and Politics 


The Carolingian Capitularies advise the “masters of the earth” 
living in the ancient Roman villas (gradually transformed into 
command posts) to limit their land-clearing and to set up an 
alliance between the small and middle-sized native landowners by 
granting them if need be a certain on-the-spot military defense. 
Domination of the territorial ensemble by the occupant of the don- 
jon (from the Latin dominus, “lord”) is nonetheless tempered by 
the modest material means of what is still no more than a dispersed 
and foreign military minority, limited in their control of space and 
society, in the contributions they can exact from the native social 
corpus. It was also for security reasons that the Frank nobility had 
preferred the transparency of a populated countryside (soon over- 
populated by essentially independent workers, occupied first with 
clearing the vast expanse of the land, then with maintaining the 
surrounding environment) to the impenetrable complexity of the 
original city. 

But beyond this, the transparency of the clearing means mainte- 
nance of the invader’s specific right over a territory in which he 
claims to settle, of his power to penetrate. The erection of the 
hillock, then of the donjon, is another answer to the problem of 
mastery over dimension, the latter becoming perspective, geometry 
of the gaze from an omnipresent fixed point — and no longer, as it 
was before, from the synoptic route of the horseman. 

At this point, it is significant to see the cultivation of the earth 
restricted to an intensive exploitation of the cleared parcels, instead 
of spreading to the nearby wilderness through a new forward leap 
of the pioneering adventure. 7 The phenomenon of retention has been 
explained by an insufficiency of agricultural technology. But I 
think that we must look beyond the obvious material necessities — 
hunting, picking, gathering of building lumber in a nearby forest, 


A* 


Unable Bodies / 93 


etc. — to imperious strategic necessities created by the technological 
insufficiencies of the military protector, rather than by those of the 
gardener or the settler to whom the lord owed assistance and com- 
fort in time of alarm. 

Recent accounts have shown the relation between the limits of 
the clearing and that of human vision from an elevated site. The 
pioneer is more clearly called a pathfinder by the Anglo-Saxons. 
Land-clearing, the cultivation of the earth for subsistence, the 
receding of forest darkness, are in reality the creation of a military 
glacis as field of vision, of one of those frontier deserts spoken of by 
Julius Caesar, which, he says, represent the glory of the Empire 
because they are like a permanent invasion of the land by the dro- 
mocrat’s look and, beyond this, because the speed of this 
vision — ideally without obstacles — causes distances to approach. A 
well-known photographer writes in his memoirs that his first dark- 
room was his childhood bedroom, that his first lens was a luminous 
slit in the closed shades. In this sense, the original donjon plays the 
part of Marey’s chrono-photography; the military lookout-post 
offers the invader a constant view of the social environment, pri- 
mary information. Social privilege is based on the choice of 
viewpoint (before attaching itself to accidents of fortune or birth), 
on the relative position that one manages to occupy, then organize, 
in a space dominating the trajectories of movement, keys to com- 
munication, river, sea, road, or bridge. Whence the extraordinary 
diversity of social treatments in the Middle Ages, a diversity that 
simply represents the variety of geographical views over a “realm” 
that, until the nineteenth century, doesn’t appear in the texts as a 
formal territorial entity. The hereditary right reluctantly granted in 
877 by Charles the Bald (Kiersy Capitulary) will transform posses- 
sion of the dominant place into permanent social domination. A 



94 / Speed and Politics 



famous example is that of the Grimaldis in Monaco. The promon- 
tory overlooking the sea has since Prehistory been a privileged 
place; it will change hands several times throughout Antiquity 
before landing, by ruse, in the hands of the Grimaldis. From the 
tenth century onward, this family will not stop extracting honors 
and privileges from that initial appropriation of a dominant view- 
point. If we can then speak of class societies, we can only do so by 
designating the classes according to place, as we suggested earlier. 
If class struggles develop, they happen openly on the terrain, for 
the conquest of a dominant place. When the citadel or fortress is 
besieged, it is not simply a military, or even political, event, but a 
social one. Serious conflicts erupt, for example, when the protecting 
mission, the limit of the military scam, is violated by the feudal 
lords; when the “masters of the earth” claim to become its owners. 
In other words, when they try to unite in their hands alone the 
twin schemas of spatial appropriation of territory, robbing the 
native populations by trying to reduce their descendants to the 
level of servi casati, to the fate of tenant slaves — manpower 
deprived of its right to military defense. 


Unable Bodies / 95 


2 


The Boarding of Metabolic Vehicles 1 


Yours is not to reason why! 

— Frederick the Second to his soldiers 


THE EXTENSIVE PHASE of Assault requires quick deaths; the 
intensive preparatory phase inflicts slow ones. As Lieutenant- 
General von Metsch writes in Wie wurde ein neuer krieg aussehen ? 
in the 1930s, “In total war, everything is a front! But along with 
the new total front, we would be wise to include the nations spiritual 
front... In both the practical matter of preparation for rearmament 
and theoretical military discussions, the moral question is of 
primary importance.” 

Born of the sea, total war, according to Admiral Friedrich Ruge, 
aims “at destroying the honor, the identity, the very soul of the 
enemy.” By striking populations with slow death through the 
destruction of their environment, the ultimate forms of modern eco- 
logical war curiously restore the soul in its primitive, ethnological 
definitions: “mana,” potential substance indistinguishable from its 
environment, not individual but plural, multiform, fluidiform, 
coagulated here and there in social, animal or territorial bodies. 

Dromological progress, by imposing the idea of two types of 
body, dependent on their situation in space, also imposes the idea 


96 



of two types of soul: one weak, indecisive and vulnerable because it 
is dependent on its environment; the other powerful because it has 
put its “mana,” its will, out of reach thanks to its deterritorialization, 
to the sophistication of its economy and viewpoint. 

Clausewitz says nothing else when he answers the question, 
“What is war?” with, “War is an act of force to compel our enemy 
to do our will.” We cannot exclude from war the problem of wills, 
despite the fact that Clausewitz immediately mutilates and bas- 
tardizes his definition by hastening to add that there can be no 
moral violence outside of the concepts of State and law. In fact, 
more than political and intelligent objectives of warfare, more 
than social or national rivalries, Clausewitz’s definition already 
suggests the creation of the ‘ 'presence in the world” of bodies without 
will. More than of an art of war, we think here of “techniques of 
animal bodies,” an indelible dichotomy between the invader's 
moving-power and his relative inability to free his movements 
from the herd of workers. 

Depending on the time and the latitude, the multitude of 
bodies with no soul, living dead, zombies, possessed, etc., is 
imposed all throughout history: a slow-motion destruction of the 
opponent, the adversary, the prisoner, the slave; an economy of 
military violence likening the human cattle to the ancient stolen 
herd of the hunter-raiders, and by extension, in modernized and 
militarized European socieries, ro the soulless bodies of children, 
women, men of color and proletarians. 

In total war, the Nazis will do nothing different when they 
create an internal social front against the foreign bodies of Jews, 
gypsies and Slays. The deportation camps are but the laboratories 
in which the cattle are treated industrially — put to work in the 
mines, on logistical worksites, subjected to medical or social 


Tho Boarding cf Metabolic Vericles / 97 


experiments, the ultimate recuperation of fats, bones, hair. . . Or, a 
happier final solution, as exchange value for other energy sources: 
fuel, trucks and military vehicles, through the intermediary of neu- 
tral countries; a whole classical economy of hostages, abductions 
and displacements — the preferred forms of dromocratic violence. 

The precious lesson of the camps and the gulags has not been 
heeded, because it was erroneously presented not only as an ideo- 
logical phenomenon, but also as a static one, an enclosure. Its 
absolute “inhumanity” was but the ostensible reintroduction in his- 
tory of the original social bestiary, of the immense mass of domestic 
bodies, bodies unknown and unknowable. What else has the pro- 
letariat been since antiquity, if not an entirely domesticated 
category of bodies, a prolific, engine-towing class, the phantom 
presence in the historical narrative of a floating population linked 
to the satisfaction of logistical demands? 

In the various descriptions of Western Europe in the ninth 
century, they sometimes mention the existence of certain forenses, 
who never constitute less than 16 percent of the recorded popula- 
tion. These are the migrant workers, going from one populated 
area to another without being granted their land-clearing occupa- 
tion, except in Germany and perhaps in Champagne. 

This social surplus, so similar to the “fourth world” of con- 
temporary urban ghettos, comes directly from the phenomenon of 
strategic retention mentioned above; from feudal, then communal, 
social control. 

In fact, the fortress’s organic function could only be maintained 
by setting its limits, as well as those of the size of populations and 
the areas of extension. Strategic calculation is likened to statistical 
calculation. The fortress, with its entrances and exits, is a primary 
schema of the strategic calculator. The settling of armed society in 


98 / Speed 



the Middle Ages thus implied the disappearance of a habitat that 
until then had been considered common: the disappearance of civilian 
space , of the common man’s right to space, to its qualification. 

From this point on, we can no longer speak of a “class society” 
without questioning the poliorcetic schema of medieval society. 
This return to the old dike, this selective Reason, replaces civil 
rights with political rights, as in the Aristotelian reflection: “Aristo- 
crats seek the plurality of fortified positions, oligarchic regimes 
prefer acropoles, and democrats like flat spaces.” Since politics is a 
matter of terrain, we then see a veritable carving of human time 
and space that puts an end to the nation of civil peace. 

Social conflicts arise from rivalries between those who occupy 
and preserve an eco-system as the place that specifies them as a 
family or group, and that therefore deserves every sacrifice, including 
sudden death. For if “to be is to inhabit” (in ancient German, buan), 
not to inhabit is no longer to exist. Sudden death is preferable to the 
slow death of he who is no longer welcome, of the reject, of the man 
deprived of a specific place and thus of his identity. 

In short, the fortresses of the Middle Ages replaced primitive 
welcomes and sacred ancient hospitality with permanent social 
rejection as the primary necessity for the workings of the war 
machine. For this enclosed society, legal repression can only be a 
constraint to departure, to exodus, in other words, to deterritorial- 
ization as a loss of identity. 

Surplus populations disappear in the obligatory movement of 
the voyage. The increasingly numerous bodies rejected by the 
poliorcetic order become physical forces moving nowhere, unseen 
zones, the immeasurable interstices of the strategic schema, the toler- 
ated movement of perilous pilgrimages, of childrens crusades, of the 
poor (“vagabonds without work, every able-bodied mendicant”). 


The Boarding of Metabolic Vehicles / 99 


and Politics 


They are forbidden to remain for more than twenty-four hours 
within the communal fortress, and are driven out of other cities; the 
citizens themselves are forbidden to shelter them under pain of stiff 
fines. The Hundred Years’ War will put an end to these great migra- 
tions. Already artillery was revolutionizing the battlefield. 

But from the twelfth century onward, the influence of monetary 
media had grown considerably, announcing the end of the medieval 
status quo, that highly praised equilibrium of political and military 
organizations. The traditional <w£-system is accompanied by remuner- 
ations. Knights soon receive wages. For a time, the military personnel 
is chosen primarily from among the gentry — the youngest son, for 
example, serving as a private servant and receiving a sizable salary — 
until the necessities of recruitment finally render the origins of the 
mercenaries rather dubious. Highwaymen and swashbucklers, descen- 
dants of Plautus’ anti-heroes, “enemies common to all humanity,” as 
Isocrates called them — these itinerant market objects are like the rest 
of the peasantry. Since antiquity, their condition has been scarcely 
better than that of the slave, who, at least, might be freed in wartime 
and drafted into the armed forces, especially the Navy, which required 
a large number of coordinated mechanical maneuvers, while land 
warfare was still considered a thing of “free men.” 

The military proletariat finds itself mixed in with the perma- 
nent exodus of the mobile masses; it issues from them as did the 
migrant worker of the nineteenth century or the illegal alien of the 
twentieth. The highwayman circulates; as his name suggests, he 
roams the highway. This is his class space as he travels in search of 
uncertain, seasonal employment. Callot will later depict him as a 
“capitano de baroni,” a ragged and mutilated braggart, a fearsome, 
pitiful vagabond still sporting plume and banner in the inter- 
minable procession of the miseries of war. 


1 00 / Speed arid Politics 



The problem of temporary lodging for these warlike 
“gyrovagues” was posed like that of passing residence at the hospice 
or the lazaretto. Military monasticism will answer this problem, 
just as regular monasticism had answered the fixity of the mystical 
Gyrovagues, by instituting enclosures. The State will then intervene, 
substituting revenue systems for public charity and local duties 
such as the “franc sale” (the right to buy and sell salt tax-free), 
before the profitability of the social excess as work force becomes 
the most obvious solution: obligatory labor only slightly foreshadows 
obligatory military service, at least in France. A very peculiar oblig- 
ation, since it must never hinder the prerogatives of independent 
manufacturers. Factory work must not escape the dictatorship of 
movement. It reproduces the enclosure on the spot, in an obligatory 
and absurd kinetic cycle, the slow death of the reject. I remember 
staying, about thirty years ago, on the banks of the Loire river near 
a state psychiatric hospital and, as a child, being surprised to see 
hordes of inmates pushing carts in the dry riverbed, forced by their 
guards to fill them with sand and roll them farther on, only to 
empty them into the water and begin again. This series of aberrant 
movements under a burning sun continued interminably, while, 
from time to time, one of the wretches threw himself screaming 
into the Loire... 

In the same way, in the seventeenth century, for example, the 
La Charite de Tours hospice must, like many others, partially 
renounce its silk industry before the threats of city manufacturers 
and limit its inmates to spooling and throwing silk threads. 

At the same time, the chores imposed on the peasants are signif- 
icantly broadened by the State, from carrying beggars to the 
hospice or the jail, to transporting men of war and criminals, 
whose late is now similar. In the same way, this chore, which comes 


The Boarding of Metabolic Vehicles / 1 01 


m 


from the pact of feudal semi-colonization, was already a proletari- 
anization, a mobilization of the peasant worker for the benefit of 
the logistical task — but again, in sub-working-class conditions. 

Louis XIV one day declares to Colbert, “If you want to know 
what economy means, go to Flanders; you will see how little it costs 
to fortify conquered spaces.” The King is alluding to the considerable 
earthworks and masonry undertaken by Louvois. Following the 
Roman example, he confided the execution of these works directly 
to the soldiers, all the while paying pitiful wages and maintaining 
military discipline. 

Alongside the migrant’s trajectory, there is the path of military 
proletarianization, the two having often been confused ever since 
Antiquity. Garlan evokes the roads and markets in which this spe- 
cialized manpower gathered with its tribes and its races — in Cape 
Matapan south of the Peloponnesus, for example. Later, we will see 
the creation of an original logistical circuit necessitated by the 
increased recruitment of anational work forces by the committees 
or the condottieri — the famous Spanish road, compared by Parker 
to the Flo Chi Minh Trail. Along these trajectories they build tem- 
porary barracks. The beds are furnished by the villagers; they install 
health services similar to those of the hospice, required by the pre- 
carious living conditions of these wretches who escape jail or prison 
only to become soldiers again. Up until the nineteenth century, the 
barracks will be a kind of clinic in which venereal diseases and epi- 
demics such as typhus will cause more deaths among the soldiers 
than battles and war wounds. 

With conflicts of mass and of movement, death by exhaustion 
am ong the foot soldiers will take, says Chambray, frightening pro- 
portions. At the same time, they will notice a necessary evolution of 
the hospices that will recreate the unity of the mobile proletariat, as 


1 02 / Speed and Politics 


. ''' 



Doctor Wasserthur notes in his report of June 1 0, 1 884, on the condi- 
tion of the Selestat hospital, in which diseased soldiers and war- 
wounded sleep alongside typhus cases, cancer patients and the destitute. 

The social demands of the military proletariat will long remain 
the simple, vital requirements of subsistence: salaries, job security, 
on-the-job assistance to invalids and the wounded. Riots and 
mutinies take the form of frequent strikes, which are narrow in 
scope and generally concern delayed payment of wages — delays of 
up to ten years. The mutineers often form autonomous combat 
groups, electing a chief (Spanish Electo, German ambosat , etc.) who 
is assisted by a democratic council. And immediately these prole- 
tarian troops return to their initial demands. They try to take over 
and hold a fortification, to the point where their employers are 
finally obliged to concede, to pay what they owe so that the soldiers 
will get back on the highway. These limited revolts will nonetheless 
play an important role in the political evolution. For the satisfac- 
tion of the soldiers’ demands helps, within the state apparatus, to 
hasten the development of the laboring and productive populations’ 
material obligation toward those “luxury peoples” who supplant 
the old provincial masters. Tax, that economic vassalage, is sometimes 
levied directly by the soldiers, “an expedient means, disapproved of 
by Colbert who advises the collectors (as they then called those 
terrible animals) to use violence only as a last resort.” Thus, the 
public treasury is able to maintain a standing army more decently, 
to counter frequent desertions by guaranteeing regular salaries. In 
this mitigated period, as Clausewitz shows, the military objective is 
accomplished with difficulty using money from the treasury. The 
vagabond troops are taken wherever they can be found, from one’s 
own home or from the neighbor’s, with no care for their past or 
their origins. Many able men at that time have no choice but to live 


The Bearding of Metabolic Vehicles / 1 03 


as raiders, even as brigands, holding the countryside: “couriers 
riding onward, owing nothing while they are on the fields. 

Since Babeuf and Engels, there has been much talk of the 
bodily mechanics of the proletarian soldier, of the obligation to 
serve the war machine, to carry out a repeated and invariable 
number of coordinated maneuvers (in the eighteenth century, for 
example, each shot fired from a cannon required about ten move- 
ments). Later they began wondering about the living conditions of 
the laboring proletariat — without, as did Engels, abandoning the 
disdain and repulsion that have surrounded the mobile mass of will- 
less bodies since time immemorial: the worker granted conditional 
freedom by the Chapelier Law during the French Revolution; the 
cloistered body of the woman, put in a harem or brothel ( maison 
close"), her sex sold or rented, even put under lock and key, as a 
source of profit for her temporary owner; bodies of the “forlorn 
hope” — the lost band — as the ideal object of training and discipline. 

The “janissary” (the new soldier) is torn very young from the 
families of Christian slaves before undergoing military proletarian- 
ization. In the fifteenth century, the battles of Grandson and Morat 
show the importance the Swiss army attached to the presence of the 
forlorn hope, sent before the troops to fool the enemy; they are 
only hoodlums picked up in the city outskirts, miserable couriers 
doomed to certain death. Vauban, in the seventeenth century, 
states upon his return from an inspection tour that the Kingdom is 
put in danger “by those fortifications guarded by garrisons and 
squadrons of children, poor little wretches who are violently 
abducted from their homes or stolen in a thousand different ways. 
Abduction, kidnapping — the dromocrat’s classic methods. It was 
therefore understandable that the military revolution of 1789 
should legally put the proletariat of children to work. 


1 04 / Speed and Politics 


In 1846 the Revue des Deux Mondes warns that in one year in 
France there were 32,000 cases of abandonment, or one child out 
of thirty deprived of his civil status, in other words of his identity. 
And Georges Sand, who is moved by this, describes in The Country 
Waif the procedure by which the child is confided to a traveler who 
takes him in a carriage and leaves him in the middle of a field. The 
loss of identity remains linked to exclusion from a geographic 
group, to setting a trajectory in motion, to putting on the road a 
child “who has not yet reached the age of reason.” 

There remains the difference between the “liberal” and the 
“mechanical,” pure motivity, which comes from the machine and 
can thus be performed equally well by an ignoramus or an animal 
(Equicola 95): “manual labor being considered in the (anthro- 
pocentric) society of the Renaissance as ignoble as it had been in 
the Middle Ages,” as Anthony Blunt notes in his Artistic Theory in 
Italy, 1450-1600. In fact, the worker’s body cannot be compared to 
a human model, which is ideally composed. Vitruvian man is 
essentially reasonable and harmonious, since he is contained in 
the circles and grids of Euclidean geometry — a symbol of social 
superiority since it is the geometry of the invader’s, the domina- 
tor’s, trajectory. 

It is curious to see current debates on the treatment, abandon- 
ment, slaughter and vivisection of animals, but also on the 
blockbuster movies in which a large number of them are sacrificed. 
In this context, let us quote the response of a stuntman, a “double,” 
Mr. Dominique Zardi, who had been taken to task in a column 
entitled “The Martyrdom of the Animals,” published in the news- 
paper France Soir: “Minor actors are in the same boat [as the 
animals]. They’re also lesser members, shaken, bullied, cut off the 
screen. . .It’s true I'm a tough little guy. . . But no animal would have 


The Boarding of Metabolic Vehicles 


done what I’ve done, and I’ve never hurt one animal, woman or child , 
since as everybody knows that’s about the same thing.” 

The double’s body, deprived of reason, is likened to that of 
other domestics, in the same boat. His work performances are here 
again absolutely compared to those of the animal by that dictator 
of movement, the film director. In ancient societies we know the 
bargains and ceremonies that surrounded the marriage of the 
“drudge-woman,” consisting in exchanges of animals between the 
parties. In the armies and police forces the animal proletariat 
remains — the recent use of sea mammals being a modern example, 
a hold-over from the canine regiments trained for infantry combat. 
The vehicle-bodies of horses are likened in the Middle Ages to 
projectiles; the bodies of elephants to assault tanks, bulldozers, 
tractors; those of oxen, camels or mules are like jeeps. As for the 
pigeons, those predators, they are the media whose ownership is 
reserved for a social elite, itself predatory. The rapid information 
furnished by carrier pigeons allows Jacques Coeur to get richer on 
the stock markets, in particular the merchant marine. And it is 
striking to see the salt tax scale he kept in his Bourges hotel, a 
veritable trough designed to measure the tax on the cattle of 
“worker-producers” based on the quantity of salt they require as 
subsisting animal bodies — literally, the price of their sweat, since 
physical movement necessitates a salt consumption five times 
greater than that of the body in rest. Gandhi was to lead a far- 
reaching action in India against the English with respect to the salt 
tax, as an economy of violence and slow death inflicted on the people 
colonized by the Western invader. But still today, the most wide- 
spread conviction with respect to the bodies of those wanderers 
deprived of their identity, those living dead, is that they must be 
occupied, inhabited, possessed by wills other than their own, which 


1 06 / Speed and Politics 




is the very meaning of Frederick the Second’s “Yours is not to rea- 
son why!” In the context of this disqualification of will in certain 
sexual, social or racial categories, it is significant to recall the con- 
ditions imposed on the descendants of the American black slaves, 
their battle for civil rights, particularly the right to vote which is but 
the “free man’s” right to want, and which is not accorded to bodies 
without souls. In France the law of August 27, 1791 aggravates the 
tendency still further by requiring the elector to be a landowner. 
always the wandering body’s inability to decide — inability of 
women, too, who will find it so hard to obtain the right to vote, to 
become part of this curious republican universalism! 

We see here the social and political importance of “liberal rea- 
son” (of the open sea and open warfare) with respect not only to 
unreason but to the absence of reason pure and simple in the 
bodies of the ignorant, a relation faithfully reproduced as much in 
the Marxist organization chart as in the capitalist one, but at a lesser 
level... at least for the time being. 

With the coming of democratic power, we see a perversion of 
primitive transmigration: the soul, by becoming individual, has 
become Reason, in other words the seat of a prescriptive rule of our 
actions, our movements, even the totality of our destinies. This 
reasoning nonetheless encounters resistance from the general 
confusion between common sense and the geometric hypothesis of 
superior minds (those of the military men Turenne and Vauban, or 
of bourgeois such as Colbert), as Moreau de Jonnes states in his 
Social and Economic Status of France from 1589 to 1715 ■ Statistics 
care little about our long-term habits; and Vauban’s derivation of 
25,000 cases from one won’t always be agreed with. But in the 
absence of cadastral investigation they still had to rely on inductive 
methods, arrived at by a rather crude approximation of notions of 


The Boarding of Metabolic Vehicles 




distribution. Later, Arthur Young, Chaptal and Lavoisier built their 
statistical tables on Vauban’s inductive model, but with the differ- 
ence that two out of three led to forecast errors. Further on, 
Moreau notes that Vauban’s figures become easily understandable 
when transformed into metric measurements. . . 

The soul neither preexists nor survives the disappearance of its 
body-vehicle or machine; but as potential Reason, and especially 
scientific Reason, it can act on foreign bodies which are distant in 
time and space. Animal, territorial, vegetable bodies, bodies without 
will, bodies not yet born become technical bodies or technological 
objects. Here is true social domination, the bestiary of engines. The 
purebred horse no longer acts, he is acted on by his rider thanks to 
the drive shaft of the bridle and the gas pedals of the spurs. Or else 
he takes the bit in his teeth, returns to his uncontrollable, wild 
state... he expresses himself! 

Reason (as in the Bible ) is, for the body, a form of death. Sig- 
nificantly, at the beginning of the Classical Age, the spectacle of the 
insane or possessed was fashionable, as is that of drug addicts today. 
We spy on the kinetic disorder of their inexplicable attitudes and 
their discourses. Even when he cries out, speaks or complains, the 
possessed one, like the animal, is supposed not to suffer, and thus 
cannot be an object of pity. Whence the judicial, then “medical,” 
arsenal of treatments inflicted daily on these soulless bodies by their 
owners, executioners, judges or doctors: burns, injections, ripping 
out of fingernails and hair, and finally electro-shock. The body is 
an empty house through which pass disquieting tenants, if one is 
not careful — a house best made as uncomfortable as possible. Still 
today, psychoanalysis practically realizes these beliefs by claiming to 
bring the unconscious back to the expression of a reasonable con- 
sciousness. But more than houses, these bodies are metabolic vehicles. 




1 08 / Speed and Politics 


And the pseudo-demons that we try to extract from them are pri- 
marily intelligences — themselves in transit that abusively occupy 
the “driver’s seat,” like a horseman (again) who, controlling the 
back of his horse, claims to have its “motor at his disposal. 

Foreign “intelligences” breathe into the vacant body an inhab- 
itual dynamism, commanding it to perform corresponding 
gestures. Ancient metempsychosis imagined a plethora of intelli- 
gences in search of undifferentiated matter. The movement of 
transmigration supposedly takes place naturally, notably at birth 
and death, into any body at all, thus creating a kind of physical 
equality that surpasses social organizations. Another remark: when 
the landworker is transformed into a conqueror, the population’s 
poetic potential disappears in favor of a military potential, the 
poetic transmigration of souls disappears in favor ol conquest, in 
other words of the voyage of bodies, and thus of their deterrito- 
rialization, of their inequality. With reasonable possession, the 
boarding of the metabolic vehicle is literally an act of piracy. Doctor 
Claude Olivenstein speaks of psychoanalysis as “psychism’s 
strongest and most important lever of penetration-, always the 
unconscious reference to violence and to the right of the power to 
invade, to its mechanical techniques. After all is said and done, the 
Russian psychiatrists, accused of Violence by their colleagues during 
a 1977 colloquium, might well be the most faithful to the ethics ol 
their arts. Otherwise we get repression and discipline a la Skinner, 
or Sakol’s cures for drug addiction. As Olivenstein notes, “They no 
longer take drugs, but they wander like shadows’ ’ living dead ever 
ready to welcome unusual transients. 

The social staging of human love was perhaps one of the last 
poetic manifestations of the fluidiform soul, occasionally incarnated. 
The brutal unveiling of the sexual act — sex education or pornography 


The Boarding of Metabolic Vehicles / 1 09 


— as technical revelation is another way of boarding “ignorant” 
bodies, the logical next step from the gymnasium: the famous 
physical culture, “Swedish style,” is succeeded by the modern 
mixture of highway and sex, bodies thrown together by chance 
meetings; sexual collisions soon forgotten; autos, motorcycles 
stolen', raped and abandoned. 2 

“Good conduct” is no longer morals taught in public school, 
but driver’s education, which is becoming an obligatory part of the 
curriculum. 3 But isn’t this already the adventure of military monas- 
ticism, transforming the mystical body of Christ into an armed 
body, into marching orders? 

Long before pirates, assault troops or hoodlums, the military 
monk finds gratification in the arsenal of death and terror. In fact, if 
the militarization of societies henceforth makes every citizen a war 
machine, the soldier-monk is, in this domain, a model and a precur- 
sor. The reform of the great orders, aimed at suppressing the military 
Gyrovagues, is a considerable revolution, since the monk’s “solitude” 
is now spread to large, anational armed groups. The institution of 
monastic autism in the very nature, time, space, and social and 
human organizations that he relinquishes, his renunciation of 
personal tastes and identity, prefigure the nihilism of the technological 
revolution spoken of by Heidegger. The monk, voluntarily absent 
from himself, sworn to silence, chastity and especially obedience, 
becomes the vehicle of his “director” of conscience (the drive shaft 
that powers “order,” a superior and universal “Reason”). 

We know that monasticism is more a military invention than a 
religious one; we find it in every part of the world. Since antiquity, 
whenever the notion of State has developed, military sects have 
multiplied at the same time. It is no surprise that Hegel’s concept 
of the modern State was born in Prussia, former home of the 


110/ Speed and Politics 



Teutonic Order, which was secularized in 1525. It was the car- 
bonari , with their “cellular” organization, who became a model for 
other revolutionary groups, the clandestine movements that in 
Russia were the axes of a systematized terrorist war, of a permanent 
nihilism comparable both to the permanent war led by the great 
orders — first against the Muslims, then, in America, against the 
Asians — and then the guerrilla war led against Napoleon in 
Spain... Dugesclin, the secret master of the military Temple, had 
excelled there just as well. 1 ’ In the same way, puritanism and indus- 
trialization progress together in Anglo-Saxon countries. With 
industrial internment, it is redemptive to put the soulless bodies of 
children and women to work because these bodies are guided by 
reasonable souls, the souls of engineers assigned to define their atti- 
tudes and gestures. Arbeit macht frei : Nazi and Chinese re- 
education camps claim this old kinetic belief for themselves. 

In these different examples, the conqueror, the warrior claims a 
function that seems to be a perversion of the priest’s. For the Judeo- 
Christians, everything is said from the very first pages of the Bible: 
the warrior is a perverted priest. In fact, the first murder revolves 
around the means of occupying and exploiting productive soil, and 
especially around the rent received by God in exchange. God will- 
ingly accepts the sacrifice paid by the shepherd Abel but refuses that 
of the farmer Cain. The image of the first killer of men bears a direct 
relation to the rent paid on the earth, and here again everything is 
said in several lines: the suffering of the soil “opening its mouth” and 
crying out as it drinks human blood for the first time — the blood of 
the territorial body as it slips away. (It shall no longer yield to you 
its fruit, says God... you will be a wanderer crossing over and 
invading the earth.) Deterritorialized farmer, the first killer of men 
is immediately designated a builder of cities (a commoner). 


The Boarding of Metabolic Vehicles / 111 


I 


The importance of the priest (the magician), of the patriarch, 
comes from his ability to establish and maintain this commerce of 
exchange with the gods/nature, to temper their whims, their vio- 
lence. He is the one who, thanks to his scientific empiricism, can 
make them accept his sacrifice, the rent on the earth (he collects, 
sets and' levies the tax, tithe or — in its current manifestation — 
church-offering). When, with the advent of the “foreigner,” a 
commerce of transferable goods is instituted on the banks of the 
Mediterranean, it is curious to see the exchange take place in a sim- 
ilar way (as still happens today with certain nomads): without any 
physical or even visual contact between the two parties. The mer- 
chandise is deposited on the shore or the side of the road, where the 
stranger will pick it up, put in its place the appointed value, and 
then leave. He thus passes like a shadow over the other’s territory, 
scarcely setting foot on it, like those souls, those wills that occupy 
the invisible or uninhabitable parts of the universe. The colonial 
godowns and free ports still reproduce, in their way, this process of 
exchange existing outside of military conventions. The warrior, 
dromocratic killer and organizer of crossroad-cities, has from the 
dawn of history concentrated all his effort and science on exacting 
rent for the earth. Armed force is always one of military occupa- 
tion, and it is at this level that the warrior appears as a perverted 
priest. Curiously, total war and the nuclear stand-off tend to bring 
him back to his original role. In fact, the principle of deterrence is 
not only a strategic formula, but is also the earth’s inhabitants 
finally paying their rent, literally reaching the term (limit and end). 

The expatriate warrior, building the world-wide nuclear 
enclosure, is in a position to demand an exorbitant rent from pop- 
ulations that have become entirely native, given the current 
proportions of “the meter covered, protected.” The function of the 


112/ Speed and Politics 



hero — military protector and tax collector — can thus in no way be 
limited to or even identified with “human commerce,” as Clause- 
witz understands it, for instance. The warrior’s or soldier-monk’s 
abuse of the earth’s (divine) hospitality is not only the acquisition 
or accumulation of soil and riches in the name of a State of which 
he is but the instrument (the lever, as Saint-Just says!), but is all of 
that as the indefinite expansion of the abuse itself. Moreover, we 
find this clearly mimed by the great conquerors: Alexander is con- 
tent to move forward, worried only about reaching a limit and thus 
an end to his power of penetration. If Frederick the Second declares 
that “to win is to advance,” Napoleon states that he wants to found 
and not to possess. Conquest is reduced to quest; gesture is move- 
ment. Napoleon will die poor, like a soldier monk, in the little grey 
outfit that, on the battlefield, set him apart from his officers and 
gaudy, mercenary generals, designating the “detached” character he 
intended for his military art. Perverted priests — Muslim, Christian 
or otherwise — developing the arsenal of war alongside the inferno, 
mixing poverty with the “hatred of the world.” 

Financial politics are exercised around the abduction of per- 
sons, ransom systems; social protection leads to the perversion of 
charity into bodily assistance, of poverty into the power of 
money — to such an extent that when these great mechanisms stop 
functioning profitably, the Roman papacy of monks collapses. Its 
system of military security goes along with its system of social secu- 
rity, the Inquisition with its temporal power. It is the same for the 
great conquerors: they are all lost as soon as they must renounce the 
raping of nations. All greatness lies in Assault, in the dimension 
borrowed from distance. War is assault, because war is the perma- 
nent abuse of the earth’s hospitality, its penetration. Here, once 
again, we must look at the speedometer of the racing engine, the 


The Boarding of Metabolic Vehicles / 1 1 3 



18 

1 


combat racecar: an existential measure of the warrior’s being, the 
dizzying flow of time, a rapidity-tax on the covered meter that 
ruins the earthly inhabitant, but simultaneously destroys the sub- 
stance of its conqueror and measures the survivor’s remaining 
hours. 5 In short, as in the turnaround of the topological ring, the 
survivor’s disappearance depends on the answer he can give in 
space and time to Alexander the Great’s question, to the problem 
of his limits. 1 6 

The invader’s performance resembles that of his athletic coun- 
terpart, of those Olympic champions whose records first progressed 
by hours, then by minutes, then by seconds, then by fractions of 
seconds. The better they performed (the more rapid they became), 
the more pitiful were the advances they obtained, until they could 
only be noticed electronically. One day the champion will disap- 
pear in the limits of his own record, as is already suggested by the 
biological manipulation of which he is the object, and which 
resembles the methods of artificial medical survival granted the 
terminally ill. For the dromomaniac the engine is also a prosthesis 
of survival. It is remarkable that the first automobiles, Joseph 
Cugnot’s military trolley of 1771, for example, were steam-powered, 
already situating themselves at the limit of the animal body’s 
metempsychosis, relay of historical evolution: the limit of the 
passage from the metabolic vehicle to the technological vehicle, 
spilling its smoke like a last breath, a final symbolic manifestation 
of the motor-power of living bodies. 



114/ Speed and Politics 


3 


The End of the Proletariat 


You can have a proletarian insurrection on the condition that the 
others hold their fire. If they dump two tank battalions on you, the 
proletarian revolution is as good as nothing. 

— Andre Malraux, Interviews 

EVIDENTLY, DROMOLOGICAL progress and what we conventionally 
call human and social progress coincided but did not converge. 
The development can be summarized as follows: 

1. A society without technological vehicles, in which the 
woman plays the role of the logistical spouse, mother of war and of 
the truck. 

2. The indiscriminate boarding of soulless bodies as metabolic 
vehicles. 

3. The empire of speed and technological vehicles. 

4. The metabolic vehicle competing with, then defeated by, the 
earthly technological vehicle. 

We could logically conclude with a last paragraph: 

5- The end of the dictatorship of the proletariat and of Histo- 
ry in the war of Time. 

If we come back to Goebbels’ definition, or Engels’, rhe inven- 
tion of the militant — revolutionary worker or otherwise — already 


115 



makes for no more than a “poor man’s” version of the proletarian 
soldier. The proletarianization of the working classes is only one 
form of militarization — a temporary form. 

From 1914 onward, the proletariat’s motor — and thus politi- 
cal — power was no match for the European battlefields. This 
power, however, was still indispensable to the worksites of conti- 
nental warfare. The military class, making sure to keep the 
proletariat under control, will thus allow it the illusion of being 
able to dominate, to submerge the bourgeois fortress. The latter is 
already ruined, pierced at all points by the expressway media 
(radio, telephone, television), condemned by its former defenders 
to instant destruction through the anti-city strategy of total war. 
Nonetheless, we will soon become familiar with the limits of this 
military leave , in Prague, Warsaw, Beirut... and in Paris, too, in 
May ’68, when, after the taking of the Odeon theatre, the govern- 
ment predicts at any moment the intervention of armored cars 
against the popular uprising. It is understandable that in the 1920s, 
while the “Bolshevik threat” spread from Munich to the gates of 
India, the French government unleashed a new politics of social 
aid. All this was made necessary by the logistical redeployment of 
military-industrial nations in Europe and in the world. And yet 
everyone is surprised to discover that in Part XIII of the Preamble 
to the Treaty of Versailles it says that “the living conditions of the 
working classes” — of “the balance of military forces in the world” 
would be more appropriate! — “are incompatible with world peace.” 

This is the new mix that Junger partially reveals a little later, in 
1 932, in his essay Der Arbeiter (the figure of the worker encom- 
passes the soldier and the industrialist), a work that was to win a 
large audience and rapidly become for the Germans a veritable 
political platform. . . 


116/ Speed and Politics 


r " 


In the same way, the French Union of the Left is a trap insofar 
as it has insisted, in General Cluseret’s words, on having “the army 
constitute an unknown quantity in the social equation.” In short, 
its only strength has been its silence on the military question. It is 
inevitable that its undoing will be the problem of national 
Defense, and that the Communists, who have always accepted the 
Marxist model of military proletarianization, will find themselves 
confronting radicals and socialists who, since May 1968, have 
invested in a socialism “with a human face,” liable to assemble a 
new, somewhat depoliticized electorate. It was under the auspices 
of the Portugese generals of the Armed Forces Movement that “the 
end of the dictatorship of the proletariat” was decreed in Southern 
Europe. We should not see in this, as Georges Marchais will later 
claim, a cause for rejoicing, a softening of ideological will, “the 
word ‘dictatorship’ having an unpleasant sound since the fascist 
experience.” Indeed, we cannot accuse the Portugese military lead- 
ers — returning to their country after a long and bloody campaign 
of colonial repression — of excessive humanism. In fact, with the 
Marxist generals courted by Cunhal, the dictatorship of the prole- 
tariat regains its original military significance; and as good 
technicians of war, they acknowledge that the time when the pro- 
letariat’s kinetic energy dominated political life, after having 
dominated the battlefield, is reaching an end — the time when, as 
Lenin says, the working class suddenly found itself courted and 
solicited even by the capitalists. 

From now on, the animal body of the worker is devalued as the 
bodies of other domestic species were before him. The end of the 
dictatorship of the proletariat is only the Communist version of 
facts already noted — by the French army, for example, when they 
did away with the review board (law of July 9, 1970), or in 1975, 


The End of the Proletariat / 1 1 7 


on the liberal side, by the “Trilateral Commission” on the crisis of 
democracy: “We have come to recognize that if there are potentially 
desirable limits to economic growth, there are also potentially 
desirable limits to the infinite expansion of democracy.” The crisis 
of these liberal democracies is the end of a form of mobilization of 
the citizenry. The central historical pseudo-figure of the dominating 
producer is simultaneously removed by the two great ideological 
blocs, the proletarian worker declared unusable along with the con- 
sumer-producer of the capitalist world. The revolutionary 
experiment of the Armed Forces Movement was in this context 
exemplary because it claimed to raise the Portugese leftist forces to 
another level, that of an “army civilization.” Thus in 1975, ship’s 
captain Correia Jesuino, who had become “Minister of Social 
Communication” (we are reminded here of the naval proletarian- 
ization under Louis XIV by M. de Valbelle, the former captain of 
the galleys), depicts the “left wing” officers as “ethnologists studying 
a primitive people.” For, in his view, the Portugese people is under- 
developed. Jean Francois Revel, reporting these statements in 
L’Express (April 14, 1975), indicated that the average salary of a 
Portuguese was comparable to that of a Breton or a Welshman, and 
didn’t quite see where the “underdevelopment” was. 

All of this, indeed, is inexplicable in economic terms; instead 
we must emphasize a dromological military philosophy that 
challenges everyone’s participation in a state totality, making this 
participation problematic. In the same way, if the nuclear problem 
in 1977 caused the French Union of the Left to break apart, it was 
less a matter of megatons than of the political vectors of the new 
nuclear power. Without our realizing it, the nuclear weapon logically 
modified the political constitution of the States in the world. As one 
lawyer put it, “We must recognize that the nuclear weapon has 


118/ Speed and Politics 


shown itself to be a source of constitutional right by modifying our 
actual constitution.” 

Here again, it is not so much the final explosion that counts in 
deterrence; rather more it is questions such as those posed by Arti- 
cles 5 and 15 of the French Constitution of 1958 to the solitary 
decision maker that the Head of State and Supreme Commander 
of the Armies, the President of the Republic, guarantor of the 
national territory’s integrity, has become. The speed of the political 
decision depends on the sophistication of the vectors: how to trans- 
port the bomb? how fast? The bomb is political, we like to 
repeat — political not because of an explosion that should never 
happen, but because it is the ultimate form of military surveillance. 

The political bourgeoisie, like the “revolutionary” parties, anes- 
thetized by a long period of coexistence and full employment, by 
the euphoria of continued growth, are proving in Europe that “one 
can do anything with a bayonet except sit on it.” The proletarian 
revolution now necessarily goes through the revolutions of the mil- 
itary institutions in the heart of the State’s constitutional apparatus 
and, in fact, the principal actors who have taken the initiative these 
last years are no longer the great political parties, but the army, the 
unions, and even the unions in the army. 

It is useful to notice here the anational nature of these events. 
For if one of the French national labor unions (the C.F.D.T.) 
wholeheartedly supports military unionism, requesting a “body 
politic of the soldier,” at the same time the famous A.F.L.-C.I.O. 
has declared itself ready to take the American soldiers’ unions 
under its wing. Here something fundamental is happening, which 
no one has clearly pointed out: a non-partisan dialogue is being 
created between the world’s labor forces and the military class and, 
in the short term, a “latinization” of Europe comparable to that of 


The End of the Proletariat / 1 1 9 


the South American continent. If General Vargas Prieto, “considered 
one of the most capable and progressive leaders in the Peruvian 
army” {Le Monde, November 4, 1975), declares in an interview that 
“the true forerunners of the Peruvian revolution are its armed forces, 
the root and institutional essence of the people because they are bom 
from them ,” we must understand that this really means a return to a 
situation that long precedes political Marxism, to a negation of the 
State-polis by the proletarian revolutionary forces. 

Le Monde reported in August 1 977 that General Pinochet had 
done away with the DINA, his political police, in favor of a military 
police force. Things are getting simpler. . . This is truly the end of 
the reasonable democratic State that engages in a non-partisan 
process in which the unions and the most disparate, the least 
“socialized” groups, are called to play the primary role. We are 
heading toward an explosion of national production systems, 
toward union individuation as it exists in the United States, for 
example — human labor depending less on productivity than on the 
game of interests in the manpower market. This, along with the 
breakdown of the unity of political action, allows for every imag- 
inable maneuver, even the wildest and most fragmented, on the 
level of the very survival of the old political States. The end of 
democracy in Chile was thus foreseen and orchestrated by the CIA, 
and pressure was exerted on the highway systems by the truckers’ 
unions, telecommunications, etc. 

But what should we think of the crisis situation in the old 
urban fortresses, in New York or Montreal? The union functions, 
relayed by mob associations, are entirely supplanting the adminis- 
tration and services of the old bourgeois employer. Order reigns in 
the Bronx thanks to the Mafia, which is itself becoming interna- 
tional, aiming now at a direct collaboration with the military class. 


1 20 / Speed and Politics 



as was revealed by a recent scandal that called into question the 
relations between the Israeli generals and members of international 
crime. Far from being a military political function that is becoming 
deterritorialized, losing interest in any form of sedentary fixa- 
tion, whether national or otherwise, both the petty criminals and 
the large gangs are seeing their local cottage industry undergo 
serious revaluation. 

The military class, increasingly distanced from its bourgeois 
partner, abandons the street, the highway, those outmoded vectors, 
to the small and middle-sized business of the protection rackets. 
The city unions in New York are starting to replace their members’ 
productive activity with simple crisis management, by becoming 
administrators and bankers. 

In Italy, assassinations, abductions, crimes and incidents are on 
the rise. Financial interests are becoming inseparable from those of 
a multitude of little, so-called “revolutionary,” groups. Justice is in 
a quandary. They talk about “liberating the people” and extort 
millions from them. Public opinion is in an uproar about the mix, 
but this criminal power rising from the masses is really only a 
political demand returning to an uncontrolled condition because 
the old national ethology — social ideals — has become secondary 
and no longer mobilizes. 

We can thus interpret the unexpected visits of political leaders 
such as Messrs. Marchais and Chevenement to the workers in their 
offices and factories not as a challenge to the bosses or the govern- 
ment, but as unavowed attempts by the representatives of the 
devalued revolutionary ideologies to take the grass roots back in 
hand. While the Communist Party in Portugal completely failed in 
its opportunistic attempts with the military masters, the French 
Communist Party, once hesitant, seemed to approach the courageous 



l tie End of tire Proletariat / 1 21 


Italian solution of Mr. Berlinguer, whose famous “historical com- 
promise” really only means a final, desperate union of the 
traditional parties before the threat of pure and simple disappear- 
ance that weighs on them from both within and without. 

While in France they try to keep the masses tied to outmoded 
strategic and social convictions, the army is already deploying its 
personnel in key points of civilian activity and shadows the police 
in its surveillance tasks. The military proletariat’s job is henceforth 
to police highways and airports, to collect garbage on public roads 
(where men like Democrat Abraham Beame, New York’s “little 
mayor,” was ridiculed), as well as to provide telecommunications 
and assistance; to effect certain prestige operations such as the battle 
against pollution, campaigns for the defense of archeological sites or 
cancer research, the organization of numerous athletic and cultural 
displays (Celebration in the Tuileries, the army at the Children’s 
Fair); and to accomplish important international enterprises, such 
as saving children in Biafra, setting up surgical units in areas dev- 
astated by natural cataclysms. . . even “rescuing” a group of hostages 
in Entebbe. In a threatening social universe, in which human 
societies are shown to be rife with criminal elements, the army 
seems to be a protective force, a refuge from the parade of subver- 
sive enterprises. The army continues to be greatly amused by the 
“anti-militarists’” lack of information about, and static analysis of, 
its dynamic power. 

The army’s answer to the ecological celebration in Larzac, the 
Melville tragedy, was Operation Demeter , “named for the Greek 
goddess who personified the Earth.” Why did they have to call it 
“Demeter?” why did they present themselves as occupiers and 
dominators of the planet Earth? why did they violate and damage 
the fields? — unless the Larzac celebration had claimed, albeit 


1 22 / Speed and Politics 


inadvertently, to frustrate them in their primary function, the 
power to invade? Why was it that at that very moment the “friends 
of the earth” lost contact with their planet, and haven’t even 
demonstrated any resistance? In any case, the terminology used by 
Jacques Isnard in the September 9, 1977 issue of Le Monde gives us 
pause: “Between the end of the harvest and the opening of the 
hunting season, the land army organized, in the Beauce and Perche 
regions, its first true maneuver in open ground , in other words, 
away from the highways and roads, in a region of 2,000 square kilo- 
meters of farm land and prairies.” They put on a “show maneuver” 
in order to maintain neighborly relations between the army and the 
civilian populations. The farmers, who remembered the army’s help 
during the previous year’s drought, accepted the Demeter exercise 
without, it seems, too much grumbling... “Goddess Demeter is 
with us,’ recognizes Colonel de Rochegonde, who commands the 
2nd Motor Brigade. While another colonel states, “We are but 
the managers of national Security and, as such, we too are held 
accountable. "The army takes advantage of these maneuvers in 
open ground to lead, for example, offensive reconnaissance missions 
fifty kilometers from its base, along with public relations operations 
in the Eureet-Loire department.” You do not enclose dromocrats in 
gulags or camps, not even in Larzac. 

The Institute of Advanced Studies in National Defense spent 
six months in collaboration with advertising experts setting up a 
three-year campaign (at a cost of sixty million francs) aimed at 
sensitizing the public to the notion of defense and protection, 
using every means of information at their disposal to change the 
army’s image (Le Monde, May 9, 1975). 

Joel le Theule, Gaullist deputy and chairman of the Finance 
Committee, thus has reason to worry, in his notes on “the military 


The End of the Proletariat / 1 23 


budget for 1977-1982,” about “the absence of numerical informa- 
tion on the use of funds”; for this fuzziness allows no appreciation 
of the shifts in our defense policies. The army insists on regaining 
its autonomy of action, on redefining itself as a public service able 
to assume in a safe and orderly fashion the greatest number — even 
the totality — of civil and military defense tasks, again increasing 
the communal and industrial undertakings of its parallel initiatives. 
We can thus see just how far military unionism, advocated by the 
Communist League, the Unified Socialist Party or rhe C.F.D.T. in 
the name of petty demands, finally enters into the army’s social 
scheme. It is, moreover, revealing to see the creation of the first 
union branch in the 1 9th Army Engineering Corps, thus demon- 
strating that this body still remains at the forefront of military 
revolutionary thought! 

Balzac, visiting the Wagram battlefield after 1830 in hopes of 
expanding his social analysis, already asked himself the question of 
the veritable territory of historiality, the strategic theatre that, 
thanks to the advance of the media (the use of the telegraph, for 
example), had suddenly become global — external and internal 
events henceforth able to interact almost immediately. This tem- 
poral limitation come from the battlefield had been answered by 
the new “secret police,” which Balzac considers the most impor- 
tant social revolution of his time — the moment when, after the 
long period of ostensible and bloody repression exerted against the 
civilian populations by the Revolution’s “army of the interior,” 
military violence stops being necessarily visible only from afar, by 
the soldier’s uniform, and comes to rest on refined systems of sur- 
veillance and denunciation. 

These first attempts at penetration, clandestine “invasion” of 
the social corpus, had, as we saw, a specific aim: exploitation by the 


1 24 / Speed and Politics 




I 


armed forces of rhe nation’s raw potential (its industrial, economic, 
demographic, cultural, scientific, political and moral capabilities). 
Since then, social penetration has been linked to the dizzying evo- 
lution of military penetration techniques; each vehicular advance 
erases a distinction between the army and civilization. 

Fascism, defining itself in Germany as Ostkolonisation, in other 
words the institution of a colonial situation on the European con- 
tinent that claims to subvert existing socio-political groups, in 
fact reveals to us the great two-way movement of dromocratic 
totalitarianism between metropoles and colonies. Mapped out 
during the unprecedented logistical effort of the First World War, 
this movement will bring about the singular unity of Western 
civilization in the 1 920s, “the incorporation of colonial action in 
national life as a solution to the serious problems that human 
evolution will later impose on the world,” as Albert Sarraut, French 
colonial minister, declared in 1921. 

To understand dromocratic society and its establishment, it is 
no doubt more useful to read The Black Code of the Colonial Pact 
than any other so-called sociological work. “We must not,” wrote 
Colbert, “constitute in the colonies a constant civilization.” The 
ancient legislation that will subsist in our colonies until 1848 
considers the negro to be furniture the black slave is first of all a 
movable commodity. His legal existence is solely a function of his 
movable/furniture quality, of the transportation he is subjected to. 
The vogue of Black American jazz after 1914, the frenzied gestic- 
ulation revealed by the first American sound film that colored the 
face of a white actor and bent him to the rhythm of the movable 
slave, reminds us of that country’s dominant culture today, and 
of James Baldwin’s profound reflection: “Tomorrow you will all 
be negroes!” 


II 

i 


The End of the Proletariat / 1 25 


In fact, from the beginning, the American system has not had 
a measure of comparison between the value of the messages deliv- 
ered and the effort necessary for their transmission. More so than 
with the content of the message, the means of its mediatization 
appear as instruments of primary necessity in the United States, 
first of all in their naval relation to metropolitain Europe, to the 
Africa that supplies its manpower, then for the constitution of a 
certain State centralism over a vast territory in which, in order to 
govern, one must first penetrate and then communicate. 

The media are the privileged instruments of the Union. They 
alone are able to control the social chaos of American pan-human- 
ity; they are rhe guarantors of a certain civic cohesion, and thus of 
civil security itself. Inversely, as in the ancient colonial model, 
American democracy will make no real efforts to integrate its ethnic 
minorities, its factions, into a constant civilization, into a truly 
community-oriented way of life. For segregation is what sanctions 
the system’s hegemony of the media, on which rests the nature of 
the American State’s authority. 

This is one reason for the survival of old racism among the 
good citizens of the “land of the free;” and we will note as well that 
the great internal and external upheavals in the United States will 
be linked directly to dromological events, to the very techniques 
of penetration and transmission — from the delayed radio message 
of Pearl Harbor to the affair of the Watergate microphones or the 
Kennedy assassination: we could draw up a list. Citizen Kane, the 
most accomplished product of American civic culture (later bap- 
tized “pop-culture!”), is less William Randolph Hearst, the 
newspaper magnate who served as Orson Welles’ model, than 
Howard Hughes, the invisible citizen. Hearst still delivered 
information; Hughes was content to speculate indifferently on 



whatever delivered it. He singlehandedly constituted the most 
radical critique of Fuller’s and MacLuhan’s global theories. This 
completely desocialized man, who vanished from the earth, who 
avoided human contact for fear of germs, who was terrified by 
the very breath of his rare visitors, nonetheless thought only of 
the media, from the aerospace industry to the cinema, from 
gasoline to airfields, from casinos to the star system, from the 
design of Jane Russell’s bra to that of a bomber. His existence 
could be considered exemplary. Hughes cared only about that 
which passes in transit. His life rebounded from one vector to 
another, as has, for two hundred years, the power of the American 
nation he adored. Nothing else interested him. He died in the 
open sky, in an airplane. 

In the same way, American commercial methods triumphed in 
Europe in 1914 thanks to the unforeseen logistical dimensions 
taken by the conflict. The United States was to win on the conti- 
nent one of the first gasoline wars, putting the French market in 
the hands of Standard Oil, driving back our army which had gone 
to the front with 400 tanker trucks while the Americans owned 
more than 20,000. Once more, the market was created not by the 
object of consumption but by its vector of delivery! 

Once peace was restored, it is interesting to see America retreat 
from the European market, notably from France, where the com- 
pany representatives were unable to effectively implant their 
products, “having committed gross psychological errors in their 
advertising campaigns.” To speak plainly, European culture still 
victoriously resists American cultural overthrow. We will see 
totalitarian governments try to install comparable vectors. But, 
being-all-too often tangled up in elitist culture and used to giving 
more importance to the message than to the vehicle, they will 


1 26 / Speed and Politics 


The End of the Proletariat / 1 27 


have difficulty, using ideological propaganda, in attaining the per- 
fect logistical efficiency of the American patriotic “short-cut.” 

Later, after total war — in other words after the extensive 
destruction of the European nations’ identity (total war, like colo- 
nial war, aiming at the annihilation of constant civilizations) — we 
see the evacuation of American stocks toward Europe. But here 
again, we haven’t sufficiently analyzed this flow of instruments and 
objects brought over by the liberty ships. We must still apply aes- 
thetic, functional and other meanings to this world of giant cars; to 
the plethora of household objects in gleaming kitchens in which, 
significantly, nothing is cooked but sandwiches and canned foods; 
to the whole spectacle of a “thoughtless objectivity that makes the 
very concept of consciousness meaningless;” to the clandestine 
interference in the ordinary vectors of exchange and communica- 
tion by the technological codes that result from production systems. 

Technologies of body and soul are thus strangely complexified 
in American pop-culture. The body without soul is, as we saw, a 
body assisted by technical prostheses. And since we’re talking about 
America, we would do well to remember that the word “comfort” 
comes from the old French assistance-, a reference to the old social 
bestiary of bodies seized in motion, left along the road. Unleashed 
in the 1920s, the de-neutralization of the media paves the way for 
what has been called “the war of the domestic market,” a massive 
ideological campaign addressed directly to the family puzzle that it 
claims to put together, even to reinvent, as an “infinite receptacle for 
consumer goods.” 2 This campaign will very quickly become a veri- 
table animal domestication of the American citizen. 

Significantly, the American government will not deem it neces- 
sary to establish a veritable welfare system on its own territory. It is 
convinced at the time that the promotion of a paternalistic and 


1 28 / Speed and Politics 




humanitarian comfort civilization will perfectly replace social aid 
through the technical assistance of bodies, from the household robot 
to the company psychiatrist or the latest model of car. Not unlike 
the way this country today nurtures a romantic taste for the 
revived bionic bodies of fascistic futurism, human bodies in which 
certain organs have been replaced by technological grafts, enabling 
these new heroes of surgical science to accomplish superhuman 
physical exploits. 

But the politics of comfort was superseded by that of social 
standing. Everyone suddenly found himself exposed to the scrutiny 
of his neighbors, compared with the Identikit portrait of the ideal 
American consumer: a model of civic-mindedness whose ges- 
tures, quirks and attitudes toward life were henceforth broadcast 
without reprieve by the radio, the press, television and the cinema, 
and buried under commercial messages. Its political counterpart 
is the McCarthy period, a time of blacklisting, of anti-American 
witch hunts, of artists and intellectuals on trial — the same artists 
and intellectuals who were again designated in 1975 by the Tri- 
lateral Commission as a threat to democracy by their ability to 
constitute demobilized and irredeemable margins. 

In fact, American-style (social) security implies the population’s 
cultural underdevelopment. It is remarkable to see modern demo- 
cratic States bragging about their silent majorities. In its way, the 
silence of the American people has become just as oppressive as 
that of the Russian people; social standing has become a step 
toward the invention of the proletarian policeman. 

The hierarchy of high speeds of penetration and assault made 
and unmade the specter of the proletarian as if in a lap-dissolve — 
that mutation that begins with the all-too clear social distribution 
commanded by the Convention, then continues with the cloudier 


The End of the Proletariat / 1 29 


look of Marx and Engels, who are unable to see the mythic figure of 
the Worker, even in the rich deposit of industrial proletarianization 
that is England in the nineteenth century. Engels cannot find his 
specimen, his neanderthal of historical evolution... 3 Only in June 
1848 will the image finally take shape, in the streets of Paris, on a 
theatre of civil tvar “as populated as that of the Battle of Leipzig,” 
where thirty to forty thousand men are thrown into combat. 

Just as the revolutionary process of the proletarianization of 
labor comes from the war of mass and movement, the myth of “the 
worker of metaphysics” (Biblical image of man’s first pain: cursed 
by God and cursing and killing in turn to replace Him in His cre- 
ative works) also takes shape on the great battlefields of industrial 
war. Teilhard de Chardin, for example, believes along with most of 
his contemporaries that war is one of the principle ferments of 
technological progress; but the idea of “unfinished man” suddenly 
strikes him during his “unforgettable experience at the front,” as he 
writes in 1917. In 1945, at the end of the total war, he notes, “War 
is an organic phenomenon of anthrop agenesis that Christianity can- 
not suppress any more than it can do away with death.” He adopts 
the voice of Tacitus to deplore the international Peace that will 
cover the world with “the crust of banality, the veil of monotony” 
{La nostalgie du front, 1917). “Something like a light will go out 
over the earth.” Demobilization will be, for the member of the 
Yellow Crusade (that epic of automotive assault), immobilization 
in anti-revolution-evolution. 

While preparation for war requires months, even years, the deci- 
sive assault lasts only an hour, perhaps only a few minutes. 
Something of the evolutionary-revolutionary gaze on bodies 
engaged in historical kineticism is held over from the fatal homo- 
sexuality of ancient generals, enlightened despots and sultans, who 



would force the “militias that are very pleasant to watch, if you are 
not the one to receive the blows” to repeat their maneuvers endlessly. 4 
Each is seized by an immoderate desire for the subjected flesh of the 
proletarian soldier, the powerful mass of “mobile machines... blindly 
obeying the impulses of their drivers” (Babeuf). The military work- 
forces are obliged not so much to sell themselves as to give 
themselves to the war entrepreneur. For him they are what the 
woman, then the mount, was for the knight in battle: they help him 
move forward, die under him or cause his death. Alexander is 
nothing without the humors of Bucephalus; Richard the Third at 
Bosworth loses his life — and his kingdom — along with his horse. 
The military, then laboring, proletarian kinetic, infinite, prolifically 
self-regenerating — carries into time and space the historical guide 
who straddles him, directs and inspires his movements, and who is 
also a chief of war: Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao. 

In short, the revolutionary figure of the worker, sketched less 
by the industrial system than by the military one, fills the kinetic 
disparity between slow war and rapid war. The “full steam ahead 
through the mud” of the nihilist Nechaiev, apostle of systematized 
terrorist warfare, is not a rhetorical figure but a serious techno- 
logical proposition: compensate for the distortion born of the 
destructive assault s necessary brevity by accelerating the rhythm of 
attacks. Historical evolution is then kept moving literally by a com- 
bustion engine! 

German fascism will have the same concerns. With Heidegger 
it becomes “die Totale Mobil-Machung ,” “the final stage of the will 
to power and the realization of the essence of technology: nihilism.” 
The proletarian soldier can in non-war pursue his revolutionary 
task, assault, which has become an aggression against nature. This 
is the pan-destruction of the world (Bakunin), the great geo-political 


130 /'Speec anc Politics 


The End of the Proletariat / 1 31 


sites that devote the earth to war, keeping its visible surface for the 
“worker of metaphysics,” or giving it to him by educating him. In 
practice, this begins as a kind of humanitarian aid to the German 
unemployed, then as a voluntary service to which Heidegger calls 
the intellectuals, “a service of work, knowledge and arms.” This will 
become the exemplary development of the history of the camps 
that, in 1926, receive their first volunteers, mixing, in the most 
moving manner possible, workers, peasants and students. 

The whole thing could have seemed extremely liberal at a time 
when, everywhere in the Western world, a crushing need for man- 
power was being felt. The insatiable requirements of industrial 
warfare, already forgotten after so few years, simultaneously put the 
populations to work and domesticated them with para-military 
State bureaucracies in Europe, across the Atlantic and overseas 
(between the two wars, moreover, the International Labor Office in 
Geneva handled all of the world’s manpower problems) . 

In the colonies, American “forcing” is answered by the smotig, 
the organization of penal labor; while in Bulgaria, for example, 
civilian labor is made obligatory from 1920 onward, for both sexes, 
under a general office attached to the Ministry of Public Works. 
But the beneficiaries usually work on construction projects headed 
by the Ministry of War: strategic roads, railways, airports, factories. 

The fascist project as well, in the final account, is no more than 
a compromise in the conflict that has long opposed, in the heart of 
the State, the aristocracy, the military class and the bourgeoisie, 
each one fighting over its proletariat. In Germany, labor service will 
be made mandatory in 1928; those who try to avoid it become 
objects of scorn, social exclusion or denunciation, as the deserter or 
shirker was in time of war. In 1934, the completely standardized 
work camps become detention camps; and they will be transformed 


1 32 / Speed and Politics 




into concentration camps, into death camps, in the face of public 
apathy, without anyone even bothering to remove their original 
motto: “Arbeit macht frei.” 

The slip from one to the other is in fact quite natural; the pro- 
letarian worker’s flesh is no different from that of the proletarian 
soldier. As Clausewitz writes: ‘Tools (soldiers) are there to be used, 
and use will naturally wear them out... 

For their part, the Communist countries ostensibly fulfilled 
Teilhard de Chardin’s wish at the very moment he formulated it: 
die Totale Mobil-Machung. More than the suppression of the bour- 
geois class, this is the disappearance of its productive proletariat. In 
China, from 1964 onward, the revolutionary slogan was “Take the 
army as your model”; and the entire population was forced to wear 
a similar uniform, a kind of ambiguous, asexual outfit. In France, 
on the other hand, the soldier was called upon more and more 
frequently to wear the combat uniform, the outfit of the laborer, 
even during official parades. 

All greatness is in assault! — an inaccurate translation of Plato or 
a paraphrasing of American forcing? 5 Fascism was totalitarian only 
insofar as it intended to be totally dromocratic. The “vital space” is 
only the disappearance of European geography, become an area, a 
desert without qualities, expanded by a “social organization made 
entirely functional by the hierarchy of speed — the same hierarchy 
that had produced National Socialism on the streets of Berlin, 
before returning with total war to its elitist cultural origins. From 
the beginning, the superb body of the Man of Assault, of the blond 
and naturalistic Aryan, is willingly exhibited by Nazi propaganda. 
What the Berlin stadium’s celebration of the Olympic liturgy shows 
is a hierarchy of bodies according to speeds of penetration. The 
athletic body is prytanic — projectile or projector. The excitement 


The End of the Proletariat / 1 33 






1 


of the speed or distance record is that of assault. This countdown in 
time and space, the very principle of athletic performance, is bur the 
theatricalization of the race toward its “absolute greatness,” of that 
military charge that begins as a slow and geometric march, and 
continues as an increasingly powerful acceleration of the body 
meant to give the final surge. 

With total war, the “ Totale Mobil-Machung takes on its full 
meaning. There is no longer any social comparison between the 
triumphant body of the proletarian soldier — the superior being 
who, according to the old expression, possesses the “magnificence 
of displacement;” the German soldier who rushes headlong into 
the limitless expanse of the steppe or the desert — and the body of 
the proletarian worker who is there only to support the logistical 
effort. A mass of the physically unfit, of forced residents, of prisoners 
interned in camps, unable bodies, petty criminals... 

For the Italian fascist passing directly from the athletic record 
to absolute war, the intoxication of the speed-body is total; it’s 
Mussolini’s “Poetry of the bomber.” For Marinetti, after d’Annun- 
zio, the “warrior-dandy” is the “only able subject, surviving and 
savoring in battle the power of the human body’s metallic dream”; 
coupling with technological equipment scarcely more cumbersome 
than a horse, the old metabolic vehicle of the warring elites: rapid 
launches or “torpedos” straddled under the sea by aristocratic 
frogmen in search of the British fleet. The Japanese kamikaze will 
realize in space the military elite’s synergistic dream by voluntarily 
disintegrating with his vehicle-weapon in a pyrotechnical apoth- 
eosis; for the ultimate metaphor of the speed-body is its final 
disappearance in the flames of explosion. The possible rebirth of 
fascism is a fear shown by many after the revelation of the Nazis’ 
crimes against humanity. Whatever the case: since fascism never 






1 34 / Speed and Politics 



died, it doesn’t need to be reborn. I’m not talking about little 
sadicomuseographic or commercial trifles, but quite simply the 
fact that it represented one of the most accomplished cultural, 
political and social revolutions of the dromocratic West, like the 
naval empires or the colonial establishments. And it certainly has 
less to fear from “the future” than does a Communism that no 
longer has anything Marxist about it but its name, and for which 
the end of the dictatorship of the proletariat was the admission of 
its historical failure. 

Fascism is alive because total war, then total peace, have 
engaged the headquarters of the great national bodies (the armies, 
the forces of production) in a new spatial and temporal process, 
and the historical universe in a Kantian world. The problem is no 
longer one of a historiality in (chronological) time or (geographic) 
space, but in what space-time? 

In a recent article, I stressed the necessity of reviewing our 
physical concept of history, of finally recognizing it for what it has 
become: 

“...Which in short would make of war’s conductibility (the 
coherent plan devised in time and space that can, through repeti- 
tion, be imposed upon the enemy) not the instrument but the 
origin of a totalitarian language of History. This language is the 
mutual effort of the European States, then of the world, toward the 
absolute essence of foreign or civil war (speed), thus giving it the 
stature of an absolute takeover of world history by Western military 
intelligence. Pure history, then, is only the translation of a pure 
strategic advance over terrain. Its power is to precede and be final, 
and the historian is but a captain in the war of time .” 6 


The End of the Proletariat / 1 35 


4 


The Consumption of Security 


Security cannot be divided. 

— Michel Poniatowski, March 4, 1976 


“REVOLUTION GOES FASTER than the people,” declared President- 
General Costa Gomes at the beginning of the Pormgese events. 

How could such a thing be possible? Simply because in the 
final account the West’s so-called revolutions have never been 
made by the people, but by the military institution. Economic lib- 
eralism has been .only a liberal pluralism of the order of speeds of 
penetration. To the heavy model of the hemmed in bourgeoisie, to 
the single schema of the weighty Marxist mobil-machung (ostensibly 
planned control of the movement of goods, persons, ideas), the 
West has long opposed the diversity of its logistical hierarchy, the 
utopia of a national wealth invested in automobiles, travel, 
movies, performances... A capitalism that has become one of jet- 
sets and instant-information banks, actually a whole social illusion 
subordinated to the strategy of the cold war. Let’s make no mistake: 
whether it’s the drop-outs, the beat generation, automobile dri- 
vers, migrant workers, tourists, Olympic champions or travel 
agents, the military-industrial democracies have made every social 
category, without distinction, into unknown soldiers of the order of 


136 




speeds — speeds whose hierarchy is controlled more and more each 
day by the State (headquarters), from the pedestrian to the rocket, 
from the metabolic to the technological. 

In the 1960s, when a rich American wanted to prove his social 
success, he bought not “the biggest American car he could lay his 
hands on,” but a “little European job,” faster, less limited. To suc- 
ceed is to reach the power of greater speed, to have the impression 
of escaping the unanimity of civic training. Since total war, there 
have been no foreign, external wars in the strict sense; as the Mayor 
of Philadelphia so aptly put it during a hot American summer: 
“Now the frontiers pass inside the cities.” Whether highway or 
street, everything is part of the single glacis of the frontier desert. 

The Berlin wall benefited in the summer of 1977 from the 
latest advances in mines and video systems — a veritable face-lift! 
After Belfast, Beirut showed us the old communal city crushed 
under the blows of the Palestinian migrants. What they lived 
through was not the old state of siege, but an aimless and perma- 
nent state of emergency. To survive in the city one had to stay 
informed daily, by radio, about the strategic situation of one’s own 
neighborhood; everyone transformed his car into an assault vehicle, 
loaded with weapons in order to ensure freedom of movement. Not 
only didn’t the violence distinguish between uniforms, but the 
combatants themselves veiled their faces, like members of a hold- 
up. They didn’t want to be recognized even by their neighbors or 
social partners. They return to the state of the native combatant, to 
“open warfare”; a reappropriation of a certain technological under- 
development of the masses in the realm of weapons; a new progress 
of the disinformation of citizens, parallel to de-urbanization. 

When the American State refuses to help New York in a time 
of crisis, when hospitals and schools have to shut down, when 


The Consumptic 


social aid is cut back and the city is no longer cleaned, it’s the 
dissolution of the city in its own outskirts, the future popular self- 
government of civil fear. Popular war had largely contributed to 
making the means of survival on the battlefield into a means of 
existence. The modern State takes credit for the formula in its new 
logistical revolution: when the Kang of Morocco decides in the fall 
of 1975 to take back the Spanish Sahara, he sends not his armies, 
but “peace marchers,” a miserable mass picked up in the cities and 
thrown unarmed into the desert at the front lines of the Moroccan 
tanks — as if, after all, it was now an ecological matter to be settled 
more between civilians than between military men. 

With the Palestinian problem, popular war had suddenly taken 
on global proportions. Indeed, the tactic that consists in embracing 
in a diffuse manner the most widespread territories to escape the 
powerful nuclei of military repression could have no meaning for 
them, since the very cause of their struggle was the deprivation of 
geographic territory. They therefore lost no time in literally settling 
into the time zones of international airports. The new unknown 
combatants, come from nowhere and no longer finding a strategic 
terrain, fight in strategic time, in the relativity of travel time. Since in 
the final account there is no road that is not strategic, from this 
moment on there is no longer a truly civilian aviation. It is under- 
standable that supersonics like the American SST, or more recently 
the Concorde, give rise to heated discussions: their high perfor- 
mances are a problem for the military. They reproduce in the vectors 
of the nuclear status quo the 1920s phenomenon of automotive 
assault in the streets of the bourgeois city. 

On March 4, 1976, France’s Michel Poniatowski, then-Minis- 
ter of the Interior, declared, “Security cannot be divided!” But to 
be more precise, he should have said: From now on, security can no 


1 38 / Speed and Politics 



longer be divided. As then-President Giscard d’Estaing stated three 
months later in a speech at the Military Academy, “Alongside the 
supreme means of ensuring our security, we need the presence of 
security. In other words, we need to have a social body organized 
around this need for security." On August 25, Olivier Stirn, Secre- 
tary of State in the Overseas Territories, told the Council of 
Ministers that “The evacuation of the inhabitants of Basse-Terre 
Island, who were threatened by the eruption of the Soufriere vol- 
cano, demonstrated the possibilities for spontaneous action in a liberal 
society." As we saw later, civil and social protection in this type of 
affair is no longer contemporary with the catastrophe; it precedes 
and, if need be, invents it. 1 

In fact, the government’s deliberately terroristic manipulation 
of the need for security is the perfect answer to all the new ques- 
tions now being put to democracies by nuclear strategy — the new 
isolationism of the nuclear State that, in the U.S., for example, is 
totally revamping political strategy. They are trying to recreate 
Union through a new unanimity of need, just as the mass media 
phantasmatically created a need for cars, refrigerators... We will 
see the creation of a common feeling of insecurity that will lead 
to a new kind of consumption, the consumption of protection; 
this latter will progressively come to the fore and become the tar- 
get of the whole merchandising system. This is essentially what 
Raymond Aron recently said, when he accused liberal society of 
having been too optimistic for too long! The indivisible promo- 
tion of the need for security already composes a new composite 
portrait of the citizen — no longer the one who enriches the 
nation by consuming, but the one who invests first and foremost 
in security, manages his own protection as best he can, and finally 
pays more to consume less. 


The Consumption of Security / 1 39 


All this is less contradictory than it seems. Capitalist society has 
always tighdy linked politics with freedom from fear, social security 
with consumption and comfort. But as we saw, the other side of this 
obligatory movement is assistance; since the war of movement, the 
infirmity of unable bodies has taken on a social consistency through 
the demands of the military worker. If the Treaty of Versailles is 
concerned with assistance, it’s because the inevitability of national 
Defense requires it, and henceforth imposes a plan of social action on 
the States as part of their general defense. As Gilbert Mury notes, the 
first true social workers were not neutral because they came from 
places like Colonel de la Roques “French Social Party.” It’s a good 
thing to remember: the promoters of the new “Social Security” in 
Great Britain (Sir Beveridge, for example, in 1942) had made it an 
objective of total war. Furthermore, it was to encounter similar groups 
of fascist or Petainist inspiration on the European continent, such as 
the National Aid movement. It is interesting to note the enrollment 
in these movements of certain members of the fascist denunciation 
forces (who were formerly occupied with civilian surveillance and 
repression), their integration into the new personnel of social aid, as 


we take advantage of the experience of common-law prisoners today. 
This is because the activities of these technicians of standardization 
are inseparable from the hegemonic aims of the State administration. 

The tasks of the “social worker” increase and change with the 
opportunities afforded. Currently known as a tutor, educator or 
group leader, he also performs other functions: after decolonization, 
the department of “native affairs” becomes the department of “social 
affairs”; in their own country the Portugese colonial troops establish 
a “ministry of social communication.” And General Pinochet, who 
doesn’t mince words, very simply creates in Chile a department of 
“civilian affairs!” 







1 40 / Speed and Politics 



Several years ago in France, in a period of full economic pros- 
perity, the social workers declared, “We are workers like any other 
because we repair the socio-productive apparatus.” After ’68, they 
were less sanguine: “The social workers feel very strongly the 
ambiguity of the notion of social work and are sensitive to the mis- 
understandings it can generate.” In fact, in the new economy of 
survival, it is no longer a matter of participating in a society of (more 
or less futile) abundance. Mr. Berlinguer said it in January 1977: “We 
are the ones who want austerity, in order to change the system and 
construct a new model of development.” And Strangely enough, he 
immediately refers to the transportation system, “to the revision of 
the myth of the personal automobile with the reorganization of 
cities. The solution to the transportation problem should lead to a 
radical transformation of State mechanisms through a modification 
of the nature of business.” Thus, everywhere, the mobile mass’s 
vehicular power is repressed and reduced; from limits on speed or 
fuel to the pure and simple suppression of the personal auto, the 
myth of the car is condemned to disappear along with the myth of 



the worker, the central historical agent of the logistical State. 

The austerity preached by Enrico Berlinguer, as we know, had 
disastrous repercussions even within the Italian Communist Party, 
and many comparisons were made to the Spartan regime. But 
doubtless it would have been more correct to speak only of the end 
of the Lycurgean system, of the decomposition into anomie of a 
“society” whose members had been trained for centuries only to 
launch an attack, and who no longer knew what to do with their 
existence when this occupation was suddenly denied them. If you 
take away the Westerner’s car or motorcycle, what will be left for 
him to do? — if not completely fulfill the prophecy of M.I.S. 
Bloch, who, in 1897, announced: “War having become a kind of 


The Consumption of Security / 1 41 


stalemate in which neither side can gain the upper hand, the 
armies will remain face to face, constantly threatening each other 
but unable to strike the deciding blow. This is the future: no 
combat, only famine; no killing, only the bankruptcy of nations 
and the collapse of any social system.” 

In a social configuration whose precarious equilibrium is 
threatened by any ill-considered initiative, security can henceforth 
be likened to the absence of movement. The extended proletarian- 
ization of the suppression of wills can be likened to the suppression 
of gestures, for which the rise in unemployment is the best and 
most obvious image. We redistribute social work; we spotlight the 
performances of the physically and mentally handicapped, their 
records in Olympics for the disabled; we impose the new belief that 
a body s inability to move is not really a serious problem. Strangely 
enough again, the army can be found behind these philanthropic 
enterprises. Read the memoirs of Abbot Oziol, the French country 
priest who created centers for retarded children from nothing, 
centers designed to tear them away from the psychiatric wards: “A 
visitor may sometimes be surprised to hear us say that one of our 
children is in the army.’ That doesn’t mean that our unfortunate 
little retard was called into the service. We simply mean by this to 
designate the building that was given us by the Military Treasury, 
which since then has given us so much other help.” And it was 
General Malbec, director of the same National Military Treasury, 
who uttered the terrible slogan of these centers: “From the cradle 
to the grave!” But the army has never been anything else... 

The redistribution of social aid finally aims at making the 
handicap functional, as the old Prussian State did in 1914. Financial 
aid takes on the appearance of a remuneration, a salary, at a time 
when the government insists on rewarding citizens who by 




denunciation act like auxilliary policemen. The indivisible security 
discerns in the bitter old man, excluded from the economic system 
by his modest pension and revenue, a last proletarian, a kind of 
attentive sentinel, immobile in the middle of the frenetic agitation 
of the social environment. One begins to meet these otherworldly 
beings in the street, aged persons whose wrists are equipped with 
an electronic alarm system scarcely larger than a wristwatch and 
relayed to a monitoring center. Gilbert Cotteau is at the origin of 
this kind of social action with the “Delta 7 Foundation,” which is 
responsible for many things, but which also had recourse, in order 
to get off the ground, to financial aid from the armed forces (par- 
ticularly the Air Force). Its beneficiaries were mainly Vietnamese 
children made deaf by the bombardments, who received hearing 
aids; or old persons who were given free telephones, complete with 
an alarm system hooked into the central police computer. Behind 
this operation we find the National Union of Social Aid Offices and 
the Ministry of Health, as well as the Ministry of the Interior. 

The posters that launched the great campaign for the safety of 
senior citizens, the audio-visual spots: all this indoctrination is wide- 
ly broadcast in old people’s homes, clubs, hostels like so many orders 
for police mobilization, all of it furnished free for the asking. 

For other social strata, manipulation of the need for security takes 
different forms. Since antiquity, precious metals, the gold standard, 
has been a “refuge value,” a remedy for anxiety, and thus a symbol of 
individual security — this “insurance” value having been, as we know, 
freely transferred to a multitude of exchange systems. Nonetheless, 
the current questioning of the gold refuge as basic standard of the 
monetary system is quite reminiscent of the events of the Law Bank 
shortly before the French Revolution. It contributes to the collapse of 
social “security;” and we find here, in the midst of the nuclear status 


1 42 / Speed and Politics 


The Consumption of Security / 1 43 


quo, che reasons that made the Spartan State refuse the use of precious 
metals as one of the consequences of non-war. (The State, careful to 
put the people’s vigilance in defense to full use, deprived individuals 
of the means of protecting themselves other than by becoming 
totally engaged in the Lacedaemonian war machine.) 

The code of production itself always aims at the “infinite recep- 
tacle of consumption.” But the latter becomes the consumption of 
total security; the utopian use of defense reflexes leads us to modify 
esthetics and the nature of production. The meaning of business 
reform is totally different from the one ascribed to it by the powers 
that be. Thus, the appearance on the market of “nonbrand name 
products that are just as good” — which passed more or less unno- 
ticed — seems to me to be a considerable event: merchandise in 
large demand is presented for reasons of “economy,” in “anony- 
mous” white labels, the company’s obtrusive trade mark having 
disappeared. They are promoted with an immense anti-publicity 
campaign. They are, so we are told, “free products;” in other 
words they no longer rely on the dubious methods of whorish 
old marketing techniques. From now on, repulsion sells more 
than attraction; this is what organizes our new social existence 
around the objects of protection. If the companies are asked by the 
consumer protection agencies to moderate their advertising cam- 
paigns, it’s because other forces of production seek to develop 
theirs in the area of information, like the members of the above- 
mentioned National Defense institute. 

After the war of the domestic market, the war of the military 
market. It is no longer a system of consumption/production aiming 
at a democratic alliance, but the system of objects seeking to directly 
elect the military class or, more accurately, a technological and 
industrial development in the area of weaponry. 



1 44 / Speed and Politics 


After his failed bid in the Portugese elections in April 1976, 
Mario Snares declared: “I don’t need to govern with politicians; I 
can do it just as well with soldiers and specialists.” The new Chi- 
nese leaders spout the same discourse. “Military socialism” wasn’t 
born in Peru or Portugal in 1976, any more than it first appeared 
in Berlin in the 1930s or in the last century with Bismarck, 
Napoleon III and “social imperialism.” The elimination of the 
political bourgeoisie’s partner is only the realization of a strategic 
dream based solely on scientific and technological speculation: mil- 
itarized nations that can do without armies (General Gallois’ 
minimum vital force). 

For Clausewitz, the political State is already a “non-conducting 
medium, a barrier that prevents full discharge. ”In such a statement, 
the nature of the military class’s ambition is perfectly revealed and 


the atomic situation projected... “Under Bonaparte (general/chief 
of State), war was waged without respite until the enemy succumbed, 
and the counter-blows were struck with almost equal energy. Surely 
it is both natural and inescapable that this phenomenon should 
cause us to turn again to the pure concept of war with all its rigorous 
implications.” Dynamic efficiency is the State machine’s primary 
quality, and the nuclear State, ultimate stage of dromological 
progress, ensures the concept’s cohesion thanks to the strategic cal- 
culator. Faced with and boarded by this ultimate war machine 
stands the last military proletarian, the henceforth will-less body 
of the President of the Republic, supreme commander of a vanished 
army. The President’s body resembles those of the ancient conscripts 
caught between two fires. His final act will once again be Assault. 


The Consumption of Security / 1 45 



Part 



The State of Emergency 


Speed is the essence of war. 

— Sun Tzu , 

THE REDUCTION OF distances has become a strategic reality bearing 
incalculable economic and political consequences, since it corre- 
sponds to the negation of space. 

The maneuver that once consisted in giving up ground to 
gain Time loses its meaning: at present, gaining Time is exclu- 
sively a matter of vectors. Territory has lost its significance in 
favor of the projectile. In fact, the strategic value of the non-place 
of speed has definitively supplanted that of place, and the ques- 
tion of possession of Time has revived that of territorial 
appropriation. 

In this geographic contraction, which resembles the terres- 
trial movement described by Alfred Wegener, the binomial “fire 
movement” takes on a new meaning: the distinction between 
fire's power to destroy and the power to penetrate of movement, ol 
the vehicle, is losing its “validity .” 1 

With the supersonic vector (airplane, rocket, airwaves), pen- 
etration and destruction become one. The instantaneousness of 
action at a distance corresponds to the defeat of the unprepared 



149 


adversary, but also, and especially, to the defeat of the world as a 
field, as distance, as matter. 

Immediate penetration, or penetration that is approaching 
immediacy, becomes identified with the instantaneous destruc- 
tion of environmental conditions, since after space-distance, we 
now lack time-distance in the increasing acceleration of vehicular 
performances (precision, distance, speed). 

From this point on, the binomial fire-movement exists only to 
designate a double movement of implosion and explosion; the 
power of implosion revives the old subsonic vehicles’ (means of 
transportation, projectiles) power to penetrate, and the power of 
explosion revives the destructive power of classical molecular 
explosives. In this paradoxical object, simultaneously explosive 
and implosive, the new war machine combines a double disap- 
pearance: the disappearance of matter in nuclear disintegration and 
the disappearance of places in vehicular extermination. 

Nonetheless, we should note that the disintegration of mat- 
ter is constantly deferred in the deterrent equilibrium of peaceful 
coexistence, but not so the extermination of distances. In less 
than half a century, geographical spaces have kept shrinking as 
speed has increased. And if at the beginning of the 1940s we still 
had to count the speed of naval “strike power” — the major 
destructive power of the time — in knots, by the beginning of the 
1960s this rapidity was measured in machs, in other words in 
thousands of kilometers per hour. And it is likely that current 
high energy research will soon allow us to reach the speed of 
light with laser weapons. 

If, as Lenin claimed, “strategy means choosing which points 
we apply force to,” we must admit that these “points,” today, are 
no longer geostrategic strongpoints, since from any given spot we 



can now reach any other, no matter where it may be, in record 
time and within several meters... 

We have to recognize that geographic localization seems to 
have definitively lost its strategic value and, inversely, that this 
same value is attributed to the delocalization of the vector, of a 
vector in permanent movement — no matter if this movement is 
aerial, spatial, underwater or underground. All that counts is the 
speed of the moving body and the undetectability of its path. 

From the war of movement of mechanized forces, we reach 
the strategy of Brownian movements, a kind of chronological and 
pendular war that revives ancient popular and geographic warfare 
by a geostrategic homogenization of the globe. This homoge- 
nization was already announced in the nineteenth century, 
notably by the Englishman Mackinder in his theory of the 
“World-Island,” in which Europe, Asia and Africa would com- 
pose a single continent to the detriment of the Americas — a 
theory that seems to have come to fruition today with the dis- 
qualification of localizations. But we should note that the 
indifferentiation of geostrategic positions is not the only effect of 
vectorial performances, for after the homogenization sought and 
finally acquired by naval and aerial imperialism, strategic spatial 
miniaturization is now the order of the day. 

In 1955 General Chassin stated, “The fact that the earth is 
round has not been sufficiently studied from the military point 
of view.” No sooner said than done. But in the ballistic progress 
of weapons, the curvature of the earth has not stopped shrinking. 
It is no longer the continents that become agglomerated, but the 
totality of the planet that is diminished, depending on the 
progress of the arms “race.” The continental translation that, 
curiously enough, we find both in the geophysician Wegener, 


1 50 / Speed and Politics 


The State of Emergency / 1 51 




with the drift of land masses, and in Mackinder, with the 
geopolitical amalgam of lands, has given way to a world wide 
phenomenon of terrestrial and technological contraction that 
today makes us penetrate into an artificial topological universe: 
the direct encounter of every surface on the globe. 

The ancient inter-city duel, war between nations, the per- 
manent conflict between naval empires and continental powers 
have all suddenly disappeared, giving way to an unheard of 
opposition: the juxtaposition of every locality, all matter. The plan- 
etary mass becomes no more than a “critical mass,” a precipitate 
resulting from the extreme reduction of contact time, a fearsome 
friction of places and elements that only yesterday were still dis- 
tinct and separated by a buffer of distances, which have suddenly 
become anachronistic. In The Origin of Continents and Oceans, 
published in 1915, Alfred Wegener writes that in the beginning 
the earth can only have had but one face, which seems likely, given 
the capacities for interconnection. In the future the earth will 
have but one interface... 

If speed thus appears as the essential fall out of styles of con- 
flicts and cataclysms, the current “arms race” is in fact only “ the 
arming of the race” toward the end of the world as distance, in other 
words as a field of action. 

The term “deterrence” points to the ambiguity of this situa- 
tion, in which the weapon replaces the protection of armor, in 
which the possibilities of offense and offensive ensure in and of 
themselves the defense, the entire defensive against the “explo- 
sive” dimension of strategic arms, but not at all against the 
“implosive” dimension of the vectors’ performances, since on 
the contrary the maintenance of a credible “strike power” 
requires the constant refining of the engines’ power, in other 


1 52 / Speed and Politics 



words of their ability to reduce geographic space to nothing or 
almost nothing. 

In fact, without the violence of speed, that of weapons 
would not be so fearsome. In the current context, to disarm 
would thus mean first and foremost to decelerate, to defuse the 
race toward the end. Any treaty that does not limit the speed of 
this race (the speed of means of communicating destruction) 
will not limit strategic arms, since from now on the essential 
object of strategy consists in maintaining the non-place of a 
general delocalization of means that alone still allows us to gain 
fractions of seconds, which gain is indispensable'to any freedom 
of action. As General Fuller wrote, “When the combatants 
threw javelins at each other, the weapon’s initial speed was such 
that one could see it on its trajectory and parry its effects with 
one’s shield. But when the javelin was replaced by the bullet, the 
speed was so great that parry became impossible.” Impossible to 
move one’s body out of the way, but possible if one moved out 
of the weapon’s range; possible as well through the shelter of the 
trench, greater than that of the shield — possible, in other 
words, through space and matter. 

Today, the reduction of warning time that results from the 
supersonic speeds of assault leaves so little time for detection, 
identification and response that in the case of a surprise attack 
the supreme authority would have to risk abandoning his 
supremacy of decision by authorizing the lowest echelon of the 
defense system to immediately launch anti-missile missiles. The 
two political superpowers have thus far preferred to avoid this 
situation through negotiations, renouncing anti-missile defense 
at the same time. 

Given the lack of space, an active defense requires at least the 


Tine State of Emergency / 1 53 


material time to intervene. But these are the “war materials” that 
disappear in the acceleration of the means of communicating 
destruction. There remains only a passive defense that consists 
less in reinforcing itself against the megaton powers of nuclear 
weapons than in a series of constant, unpredictable, aberrant 
movements, movements which are thus strategically effective — 
for at least a little while longer, we hope. In fact, war now rests 
entirely on the deregulation of time and space. This is why the 
technical maneuver that consists in complexifying the vector by 
constantly improving its performances has now totally sup- 
planted tactical maneuvers on the terrain, as we have seen. 
General Ailleret points this out in his history of weapons by 
stating that the definition of arms programs has become one of the 
essential eLements of strategy. If in ancient conventional warfare 
we could still talk about army maneuvers in the fields, in the 
current state of affairs, if this maneuver still exists, it no longer 
needs a “field.” The invasion of the instant succeeds the inva- 
sion of the territory. The countdown becomes the scene of 
battle, the final frontier. 

The opposing sides can easily ban bacteriological, geodesic 
or meteorological warfare. In reality, what is currently at stake 
with strategic arms limitation agreements (SALT I) is no longer 
the explosive but the vector, the vector of nuclear deliverance, or 
more precisely its performances. The reason for this is simple: 
where the molecular or nuclear explosive’s blast made a given 
area unfit for existence, that of the implosive (vehicles and vec- 
tors) suddenly reduces reaction time, and the time for political 
decision, to nothing. If over thirty years ago the nuclear explo- 
sive completed the cycle of spatial wars, at the end of this 
century the implosive (beyond politically and economically 



invaded territories) inaugurates the war of time. In full peaceful 
coexistence, without any declaration of hostilities, and more 
surely than by any other kind of conflict, rapidity delivers us 
from this world. We have to face the facts: today, speed is war, 
the last war. 

But let’s go back to 1962, to the crucial events of the Cuban 
missile crisis. At that time, the two superpowers had fifteen minutes’ 
warning time for war. The installation of Russian rockets on 
Castro’s island threatened to reduce the Americans’ warning to 
thirty seconds, which was unacceptable for President Kennedy, 
whatever the risks of his categorical refusal. We all know what 
happened: the installation of a direct line — the “hot line” — and 
the interconnection of the two Heads of State! 

Ten years later, in 1972, when the normal warning time was 
down to several minutes — ten for ballistic missiles, a mere two 
for satellite weapons — Nixon and Brezhnev signed the first 
strategic arms limitation agreement in Moscow. In fact, this 
agreement aims less at the quantitative limitation of weapons 
(as its adversary/partners claim) than at the preservation of a 
properly “human” political power, since the constant progress of 
rapidity threatens from one day to the next to reduce the warn- 
ing time for nuclear war to less than one fatal minute — thus 
finally abolishing the Head of State’s power of reflection and 
decision in favor of a pure and simple automation of defense sys- 
tems. The decision for hostilities would then belong only to 
several strategic computer programs. After having been (because 
of its destructive capacities) the equivalent of total war — the 
nuclear missile launching submarine alone is able to destroy 
500 cities — the war machine suddenly becomes (thanks to the 
reflexes of the strategic calculator) the very decision for war. 


The State of Emergency / 1 55 


1 54 / Speed and Politics 


What will remain, then, of the “political reasons” for deterrence? 
Let us recall that in 1962, among the reasons that made General 
de Gaulle decide to have the populations ratify the decision to 
elect the President of the Republic by universal suffrage, there 
was the credibility of deterrence, the legitimacy of the referendum 
being a fundamental element of this very deterrence. What will 
remain of all this • in the automation of deterrence? in the 
automation of decision? 

The transition from the state of siege of wars of space to the 
state of emergency of the war of time only took several decades, 
during which the political era of the statesman was replaced by 
the apolitical era of the State apparatus. Facing the advent of 
such a regime, we would do well to wonder about what is much 
more than a temporal phenomenon. 

At the close of our century, the time of the finite world is 
coming to an end ; we live in the beginnings of a paradoxical 
miniaturization of action, which others prefer to baptize automation. 
Andrew Stratton writes, “We commonly believe that automation 
suppresses the possibility of human error. In fact, it transfers that 
possibility from the action stage to the conception stage. We are 
now reaching the point where the possibilities of an accident 
during the critical minutes of a plane landing, if guided auto- 
matically, are fewer than if a pilot is controlling it. We might 
wonder if we will ever reach the stage of automatically controlled 
nuclear weapons, in which the margin of error would be less 
than with human decision. But the possibility of this progress 
threatens to reduce to little or nothing the time for human deci- 
sion to intervene in the system.” 

This is brilliant. Contraction in time, the disappearance of the 
territorial space, after that of the fortified city and armor, leads to 


1 56 / Speed and Politics 


a situation in which the notions of “before” and “after” designate 
only the future and the past in a form of war that causes the “pre- 
sent” to disappear in the instantaneousness of decision. 

The final power would thus be less one of imagination than 
of anticipation, so much so that to govern would be no more 
than to foresee, simulate, memorize the simulations; that the 
present “Research Institute” could appear to be the blueprint of 
this final power, the power of utopia. 

The loss of material space leads to the government of noth- 
ing but time. The Ministry of Time sketched in each vector will 
finally be accomplished following the dimensions of the biggest 
vehicle there is, the State-vector. The whole geographic history of 
the distribution of land and countries would stop in favor of a 
single regrouping of time, power no longer being comparable to 
anything but a “meteorology.” In this precarious fiction speed 
would suddenly become a destiny, a form of progress, in other 
words a “civilization” in which each speed would be something 
of a “region” of time. 

As Mackinder said, forces of pressure are always exerted in 
the same direction. Now, this single direction of geopolitics is 
that which leads to the immediate commutation of things and 
places. War is not, as Foch claimed, harboring illusions on the 
future of chemical explosives, “a worksite of fire.” War has always 
been a worksite of movement, a speed-factory. The technological 
breakthrough, the last form of the war of movement, ends up, 
with deterrence, at the dissolution of what separated but also 
distinguished, and this non-distinction corresponds for us to a 
political blindness. 

We can verify it with General de Gaulle’s decree of January 
7, 1959, suppressing the distinction between peacetime and 


he State of Emergency / 157 

III ! 


wartime. Furthermore, during this same period, and despite the 
Vietnamese exception that proves the rule, war has shrunk from 
several years to several days, even to several hours. 

In the 1960s a mutation occurs: the passage from wartime to the 
war of peacetime, to that total peace that others still call “peaceful 
coexistence.” The blindness of the speed of means of communicat- 
ing destruction is not a liberation from geopolitical servitude, but 
the extermination of space as the field of freedom of political action. 
We only need refer to the necessary controls and constraints of the 
railway, airway or highway infrastructures to see the fatal impulse: 
the more speed increases, the faster freedom decreases. 

The apparatus’ self-propulsion finally entails the self-sufficiency 
of automation. What happens in the example of the racecar driver, 
who is no more than a worried lookout for the catastrophic proba- 
bilities of his movement, is reproduced on the political level as soon 
as conditions require an action in real time. 2 

Let us take, for example, a crisis situation: “From the very 
beginning of the Six Days’ War in 1967, President Johnson took 
control of the White House, one hand guiding the Sixth Fleet, 
the other on the hot line. The necessity of the link between the 
two became clearly apparent as soon as an Israeli attack against 
the American reconnaissance ship Liberty provoked the interven- 
tion of one of the fleet’s aircraft carriers. Moscow examined every 
blip on the radar screens as attentively as Washington did: would 
the Russians interpret the air planes’ change of course and their 
convergence as an act of aggression? This is where the hot line 
came in: Washington immediately explained the reasons for this 
operation and Moscow was reassured” (Harvey Wheeler) . 

In this example of strategic political action in real time, the 
Chief of State is in fact a “Great Helmsman.” But the prestigious 


158 / Speed and Politics 



nature of the people’s historical guide gives way ro the more prosaic 
and rather banal one of a “test pilot” trying to maneuver his 
machine in a very narrow margin. Ten years have passed since 
this “crisis state,” and the arms race has caused the margin of 
political security to narrow still further, bringing us closer to the 
critical threshold where the possibilities for properly human 
political action will disappear in a “State of Emergency; where 
telephone communication between statesmen will stop, probably 
in favor of an interconnection of computer systems, modern calcu- 
lators of strategy and, consequently, of politics. (Let us recall that 
the computers’ first task was to solve simultaneously a series of 
complex equations aimed at causing the trajectory of the anti- 
aircraft projectile and that of the airplane to meet.) 

Here we have the fearsome telescoping of elements born of 
the “amphibious generations”; the extreme proximity of parties 
in which the immediacy of information immediately creates the crisis, 
the frailty of reasoning power, which is but the effect of a miniatur- 
ization of action — the latter resulting from the miniaturization 
of space as a field of action. 

An imperceptible movement on a computer keyboard, or 
one made by a “skyjacker” brandishing a cookie box covered 
with masking tape, can lead to a catastrophic chain of events that 
until recently was inconceivable. We are too willing to ignore the 
fact that, alongside the threat of proliferation resulting from the 
acquisition of nuclear explosives by irresponsible parries, there is 
a proliferation of the threat resulting from the vectors that cause 
those who own or borrow them to become just as irresponsible. 

In the beginning of the 1940s, Paris was a six-days’ walk 
from the border, a three-hours’ drive, and one hour by plane. 
Today the capital is only several minutes away from anywhere 


The State of Emergency / 1 59 


else, and anywhere else is only several minutes away from its 
end — so much so that the tendency, which still existed several 
years ago, to advance one’s destructive means closer to the enemy 
territory (as in the Cuban missile crisis) is reversing. The present 
tendency is toward geographic disengagement, a movement of 
retreat that is due only to the progress of the vectors and to the 
extension of their reach (cf. the American submarine Trident, 
whose new missiles can travel 8 to 10,000 kilometers, as 
opposed to the Poseidon’s 4 to 5,000). 

Thus, the different strategic nuclear forces (American and 
Soviet) will no longer need to patrol the area in the target conti- 
nents; they can henceforth retreat within their territorial limits. 
This is confirmation that they are abandoning a form of 
geostrategic conflict. After the reciprocal renunciation of geo- 
desic war, we will possibly see the abandonment of advanced 
bases, extending to America’s extraordinary abandonment of its 
sovereignty over the Panama Canal... A sign of the times, of the 
time of the war of time. 

Nonetheless, we must note that this strategic retreat no 
longer has anything in common with the retreat that allowed 
conventional armies to “gain time by losing ground.” In the 
retreat due to the extended reach of the ballistic vectors, we in 
fact gain time by losing the space of the (stationary or mobile) 
advanced bases, but this time is gained at the expense of our own 
forces, of the performances of our own engines, and not at the 
enemy’s expense, since, symmetrically, the latter accompanies 
this geostrategic disengagement. Everything suddenly happens as 
if each protagonist’s own arsenal became his (internal) enemy, by 
advancing too quickly. Like the recoil of a firearm, the implosive 
movement of the ballistic performances diminishes the field of 


1 60 / Speed and Politics 



strategic forces. In fact, if the adversary/partners didn’t pull back 
their means of communicating destruction while lengthening 
their reach, the higher speed of these means would already have 
reduced the time of decision about their use to nothing. Just as 
in 1972, in Moscow, the partners in this game abandoned plans 
for an anti-missile missile defense, so five years later they wasted 
the advantage of swiftness for the very temporary benefit of a 
greater extension of their intercontinental missiles. Both seem to 
fear — all the while seeking — the multiplying effect of speed, of 
that speed activity so dear to all armies since the Revolution. 

In the face of this curious contemporary regression of 
stragetic arms limitation agreements, it is wise to return to the 
very principle of deterrence. The essential aim of throwing 
ancient weapons or of shooting off new ones has never been to 
kill the enemy or destroy his means, but to deter him, in other 
words, to force him to interrupt his movement. Regardless of 
whether this physical movement is one that allows the assailed to 
contain the assailant or one of invasion, “the aptitude for war is 
the aptitude for movement,” which a Chinese strategist 
expressed in these words: “An army is always strong enough 
when it can come and go, spread out and regroup, as it wishes 
and when it wishes.” 

For the last several years, however, this freedom of movement 
has been hindered not by the enemy’s capacity for resistance or 
reaction, but by the refinement of the vectors used. Deterrence 
seems to have passed suddenly from the fire stage, in other words 
the explosive stage, to that of the movement of vectors, as if a 
final degree of nuclear deterrence had appeared, still poorly mas- 
tered by the actors in the global strategic game. Here again, we 
must return to the strategic and tactical realities of weaponry in 


The State of Emergency / 1 61 


order to grasp the present logistical reality. As Sun Tzu said, 
“Weapons are tools of ill omen.” They are first feared and fear- 
some as threats, long before being used. Their “ominous” 
character can be split into three components: 

The threat of their performance at the moment of their 
invention, of their production; 

The threat of their use against the enemy; 

The effect of their use, which is fatal for persons and 
destructive for their goods. 

If these last two components are unfortunately known, and 
have long been experimented with, the first, on the other hand, 
the (logistical) ill omen of the invention of their performance, is less 
commonly recognized. Nonetheless, it is at this level that the 
question of deterrence is raised. Can we deter an enemy from 
inventing new weapons, or from perfecting their performances ? 
Absolutely not. 

We thus find ourselves facing this dilemma: 

The threat of use (the second component) of the nuclear arm 
prohibits the terror of actual use (the third component). But for 
this threat to remain and allow the strategy of deterrence, we are 
forced to develop the threatening system that characterizes the 
first component: the ill omen of the appearance of new perfor- 
mances for the means of communicating destruction. Stated plainly, 
this is the perpetual sophistication of combat means and the 
replacement of the geostrategic breakthrough by the technological 
breakthrough, the great logistical maneuvers. 

We must face the facts: if ancient weapons deterred us from 
interrupting movement, the new weapons deter us from interrupting 
the arms race. Moreover, they require in their technological (dro- 
mological) logic the exponential development, not of the number 


1 62 / Speed and Politics 


of destructive machines, since their power has increased (simply 
compare the millions of projectiles in the two World Wars to the 
several thousands of rockets in contemporary arsenals), but of 
their global performances. Destructive capabilities having reached 
the very limits of possibility with thermonuclear arms, the 
enemy’s “logistical strategies” are once more oriented toward 
power of penetration and flexibility of use. 

The balance of terror is thus a mere illusion in the industrial 
stage of war, in which reigns a perpetual imbalance, a constantly 
raised bid, able to invent new means of destruction without end. 
We have proven ourselves, on the other hand, not only quite 
incapable of destroying those we’ve already produced (the “waste 
products” of the military industry being as hard to recycle as 
those of the nuclear industry), but especially incapable of avoiding 
the threat of their appearance. 

War has thus moved from the action stage to the conception 
stage that, as we know, characterizes automation. Unable to con- 
trol the emergence of new means of destruction, deterrence, for 
us, is tantamount to setting in place a series of automatisms, 
reactionary industrial and scientific procedures from which all 
political choice is absent. By becoming “strategic,” in other 
words, by combining offense and defense, the new weapons 
deter us from interrupting the movement of the arms race, and 
the “logistical strategy” of their production becomes the 
inevitable production of destructive means as an obligatory fac- 
tor of non-war — a vicious circle in which the inevitability of 
production replaces that of destruction. The war machine is now 
not only all of war, but also becomes the adversary/partners’ prin- 
cipal enemy by depriving them of their freedom of movement . 3 
Dragged unwillingly into the “servitude without honor” of 


The State of Emergency / 1 63 


deterrence, the protagonists henceforth practice the “politics of 
the worst,” or more precisely, the “apolitics of the worst,” which 
necessarily leads to the war machine one day becoming the very 
decision for war — thus accomplishing the perfection of its self- 
sufficiency, the automation of deterrence. 

The suggestive juxtaposition of the terms deterrence and 
automation allows us to understand better the structural axis of 
contemporary military-political events, as H. Wheeler specifies: 
“Technologically possible, centralization has become politically 
necessary.” This shortcut recalls that of Saint-Just’s famous 
dictum: “When a people can be oppressed, it will be” — the dif- 
ference being that this techno-logistical oppression no longer 
concerns only the “people,” but the “deciders” as well. If only 
yesterday the freedom of maneuver (that aptitude for movement 
which has been equated with the aptitude for war) occasionally 
required delegations of power up to the secondary echelons, the 
reduction of the margin of maneuver due to the progress of the 
means of communicating destruction causes an extreme con- 
centration of responsibilities for the solitary decision-maker 
that the Chief of State has become. This contraction is, howev- 
er, far from being complete; it continues according to the arms 
race, at the speed of the new capacities of the vectors, until one 
day it will dispossess this last man. In fact, the movement is the 
same that restrains the number of projectiles and that reduces to 
nothing or almost nothing the decision of an individual 
deprived of counsel. The maneuver is the same as the one that 
today leads us to abandon territories and advanced bases, and as 
the one that will one day lead us to renounce solitary human 
decision in favor of the absolute miniaturization of the political 
field which is automation. 


1 64 / Speed and Politics 



If in Frederick the Great’s time to win was to advance, for the 
supporters of deterrence it is to retreat, to leave places, peoples 
and the individual where they are— to the point where dromo- 
logical progress closely resembles the jet engines reaction 
propulsion, caused by the ejection of a certain quantity of move- 
ment (the product of a mass times a velocity) in the direction 

opposite to the one we wish to take. 

In this war of recession between East and West contempo- 
rary not with the illusory limitation of strategic arms, but with 
the limitation of strategy itself— the power of thermonuclear 
explosion serves as an artificial horizon for a race that is increasing 
the power of the vehicular implosion. The impossibility of 
interrupting the progress of the power of penetration, other 
than by an act of faith in the enemy, leads us to deny strategy as 
prior knowledge. The automatic nature not only of arms and 
means, but also of the command, is the same as denying our 
ability to reason: Nicbt raisonniren! Frederick the Seconds order 
is perfected by a deterrence that leads us to reduce our freedom 
not only of action and decision, but also of conception. The 
logic of arms systems is eluding the military framework more 
and more, and moving toward the engineer responsible for 
research and development — m expectation, of course, of the 
system’s self sufficiency. Two years ago Alexandre Sanguinetti 
wrote, “It is becoming less and less conceivable to build attack 
planes, which with their spare parts cost several million dollars 
each, to transport bombs able to destroy a country railroad sta- 
tion. It is simply not cost-effective .” This logic of practical war, in 
which the operating costs of the (aerial) vector automatically 
entail the heightening of its destructive capability because of the 
requirements of transporting a tactical nuclear weapon, is not 


The Stats of Ens-cency / 1 65 


limited to attack planes; it is also becoming the logic of the 
State apparatus. This backwardness is the logistical consequence 
of producing means to communicate destruction. The danger of 
the nuclear weapon, and of the arms system it implies, is thus not 
so much that it will explode, but that it exists and is imploding in 
our minds. 

Let us summarize this phenomenon: 

— Two bombs interrupt the war in the Pacific, and several dozen 
nuclear submarines are enough to ensure peaceful coexistence... 

This is its numerical aspect. 

— With the appearance of the multiple thermonuclear war- 
head and the rapid development of tactical nuclear arms, we see 
the miniaturization of explosive charges... 

This is its volumetric aspect. 

— After having cleared the planet surface of a cumbersome 
defensive apparatus by reducing undersea and underground 
strategic arms, they renounce world expanse by reducing the 
trouble spots and advanced bases... 


This is its geographical aspect. 

— Once responsible for the operations, the old chiefs of war, 
strategists and generals, find themselves demoted and restricted 
to simple maintenance operations, for the sole benefit of the 
Chief of State... 

This is its political aspect. 

But this quantitative and qualitative scarcity doesn’t stop. 
Time itself is no longer enough: 

— Constantly heightened, the vectors’ already quasi-super- 
sonic capacities are superseded by the high enegies that enable us 
to approach the speed of light... 

This is its spatio-temporal aspect. 



1 66 / Speed and Politics 


After the time of the State’s political relativity as noncon- 
ducting medium, we are faced with the no time of the politics 
of relativity. The full discharge feared by Clausewitz has come 
about with the State of Emergency. The violence of speed has 
become both the location and the law, the world’s destiny and 
its destination. 

— September 1977 



I he State of Emergency / 1 67 


Notes 


?• 


Part I. The Dromocratic Revolution 

1. From Street Fight to State Right 

1 . The Parisian press popularized the term following an attack on a city vehicle 
by a band of hoodlums whose mastermind was the famous “Golden Helmet.” 

2. Kampfum Berlin, published two years before the national socialists took power 
in 1931, and dedicated by Joseph Goebbels “to the Party’s old guard in Berlin.” 

3. Dromomaniacs. Name given to deserters under the ancien regime, and in psy- 
chiatry to compulsive walkers. 

4. Marinetti, with commentary by Giovanni Lista. “ Pokes dAujourdhui” series, Paris. 

5. “Circulation Habitable,” Architecture Principe, no. 3, April 1966. 

6. Cf. Lewis Mumford, The City in History (New York, 1961), et al. 

7. Ibid. The presence of land was considered sufficient in and of itself before the 
advent of speculation. 

8. Paul Virilio, L’insecurite du Territoire (Paris, 1976); p. 77ff. 

9. Course in permanent fortification at the School for the Application of Engi- 
neering and Artillery, 1888. Quoted by Vauban. 

10. Ibid. 

1 1 . Ibid. Here again the military remarks rejoin the schema of the urban fortress. 
From the outset, the city is where the problems of health and evacuation of 
“waste” are posed. Already in the fourteenth century, the problem of pollution 
preoccupied the British parliament. 


169 


12. Vauban by Colonel Lazard, 1934. In Weygand’s preface we read: “The author 
picks up in Vauban’s writings the expression ‘fortified country,’ which he judi- 
ciously likens to ‘fortified regions.’ Isn’t the man of genius always something of a 
precursor? When Colonel Lazard studies more specifically the engineer in the 
great man of war, he tries to clear him of the accusation of formalism. He states 
and proves that the true system of Vauban consisted in applying the fortification to 
the terrain. We have found no better system in these last years when it came to 
protecting our own’ soil.” 

13. The Parisian Hanse, those who would have been called “water merchants who 
deal on the use of rivers.” (Volume XVIII of the Old French Laws). 

2. From Highway Right to State Right 

1. While at the same time, the arms industries are already employing production 
groups of 5,000 workers. 

2. La France et les huit heures by Andre-Fran$ois Poncet and Emile Mireaux, 1922. 

3. The confession is superceded. In the Middle Ages, the question is put to a 
body under torture, one that “knows the truth” and must let it escape in spite of 
himself. In the nineteenth century, torture is abolished not out of humanitarian- 
ism, but because they realized that any act (every human movement) leaves 
external traces, an involuntary stamp. From then on, they scientifically make proofs 
talk, they make them,' in a sense, “confess” in place of the suspect by arranging 
these material traces in a coherent discourse/path. Because their justice was handed 
down from very early on in the theatrical form of a dialogue, the Anglo-Saxons 
rapidly verified that from identical sets of material proofs they could draw differ- 
ent coherent discourses, each cancelling the other out, by simply changing the 
order of the elements. Psychoanalysis in some sense took up where this left off by 
substituting for the materialness of external traces the internal marks of crime. 
The psychiatric confession is obtained from the subject in spite of himself; it 
crosses his lips by force, but in the form of incoherent traces and materials that 
will be reconstituted according to the schemas of psychoanalytic science. Not 
only is the persistent flow of the psychoanalytic confession not dependent on the 
subject’s will, but it doesn’t even concern the instant of his crime, the circum- 
stances that only the subject knows. Rather, it concerns a totality going from the 
accused’s birth to the diagnostic of a final judgment. If in these tests someone is 
still listening for a confession, it is evident that this confession is no longer the 
story of a crime by its author. This was completed notably by the mapping of 
heavy crime zones in urban planning systems, and beyond this by the “crimino- 
stat” (computer aided visualization of statistical fields) currently being tested by 
the police. We could imagine that at this level the gaps and hazards inherent in 


1 70 / Speed and Politics 



the ordering of materials should disappear, since with computers they could 
make the accusing discourse perfectly coherent, or at least approaching perfect 
coherence, having to do both with the name of the subject and that of the object. 
At that point, they could do totally without the confession of the accused, who 
would be less informed about his own crime than the computer, and who, no 
longer being the one who knows “the truth,” would have nothing left to confess. 

Part II. The Dromocratic Progress 

1. From Space Right to State Right 

1. F. Thiede and E. Schmahe, Die Fliegende Nation, Berlin, 1933. 

2. “Since the end of the seventeenth century, the fleet in being, a name thought up 
by Admiral Herbert, had marked the passage from being to becoming in the exer- 
cise of constraint on the adversary. It meant the end of the naval apparatus and of 
war waged at short distances; the number and firepower of the vessels in the front 
lines became secondary.” Paul Virilio, L’insecuritf du territoire, Paris, 1976. 

3. Administrative correspondence under Louis XIV. 

4. “Materialism is the true son of Great Britain.” Marx, Contribution to the History 
of French Materialism. 

5. Cf. Marinetti, Futurist Manifesto , Tactile Navigation, and Giovanni Lista’s 
commentary, Marinetti. 

6. Peace of war, peace of exhaustion (Briand): “No one today can still wish to see 
the international regime of 1939 revived, for in fact, at that time, it was already 
no more than the ruins of a system.” Papers of the Society of Nations on the pas- 
sage from war economy to peacetime economy, May 1943. 

7. The confession is superseded; all the information gathered by the police terri- 
torial brigades end up in the central computer of the National Police 
headquarters in Rosny-sous-Bois; criminostat (visualization of statistical fields). 

2. Practical War 

1. The Engineering Corps’ technological reply to the totalitarian empires of naval 
engineering and liberal capitalism. 

2. Abel Ferry, La guerre vue d‘en has et d’en haut (letters, notes, speeches and 
reports), Paris, 1920. The Vosges deputy, killed in the service of France on September 


Notes / 171 



15, 1918, left his wife the task of publishing his work “immediately following 
the total demobilization of the French army and without taking into account 
the demands of interested parties “a double lesson from the battlefield and 
from the Council of Ministers, preaching, from the very first months of war, 
the necessity for parliamentary control,” Many passages commented on here 
have been taken from this capital work. 

Part III. The Dromocratic Society 

1. Unable Bodies 

1 . Pierre Nord, Double crime sur la Ligne Maginot. 


2. August 1977: the American Congress allows the World Bank to extend credit 
to Vietnam, but also to Cambodia and Angola. 

3. Sparta armed itself in view of accomplishing its tour de force-. “We could scarce- 
ly help but see in this adaptation something other than an automatic evolution. 
The methodical and tenacious fashion in which everything was oriented toward 
a single goal obliges us to recognize the intervention of a conscious organizer. It 
is necessary to posit the existence of one or two men , working in concert, who 
transformed primitive institutions to make them the agoge and the Cosmos.” 
M.P. Nilsson, “Die grundlagen des spartanischen Lebens”; in Klio, volume XII. 

4. “Sparta paid the' penalty for having taken her own headstrong course at the 
parting of the ways in the eighth century B.C. by condemning herself in the sixth 
century to standing still — with arms presented like a solider on parade — at a 
moment when the other Hellenes were just moving forward once again on one 
of the most signal moves in the whole course of Hellenic history.” Arnold .J. 
Toynbee, War and Civilization , Oxford University Press, 1955. 

5. Georges Huppert, L’idee de I’htstoire parfaite, 1973. 

|j: : 

6. Before history as poem or mythic chant, there is the mechanism of the trance 
and the persistence of those short invocations which create unanimity: “We are 
not warriors. But suddenly we believe we are, and the war begins” (Leiris). This 
is also the aim of the psychological training of elite corps, of political meetings, 
of military ceremonies... Inversely, the Spartan authorities discouraged their citi- 
zenry from cultivating music, “an art which,” as Toynbee remarks, “is so near 
akin to the soldier’s that, in our modern Western World, it is regarded as the best 
preparation for a military training.” But the Spartans were also prohibited from 
competing in the great pan-Hellenic athletic sports. In a word, every allusion to 
kinetic progress was eliminated from the constitution. 


1 72 / Speed and Politics 


7. Georges Duby, The Early Growth of the European Economy: Warriors and Peasants, 
Ithaca, 1974. 


2. The Boarding of Metabolic Vehicles 

1. Trans.-. Untranslatable pun between arraisonnement, “the boarding of a ship for 
inspection,” and raisonnement, “reasoning.” Virilio will play on this throughout 
the chapter. 

2. “Man is the passenger of woman, not only at birth but also in their sexual rela- 
tions... Paraphrasing Samuel Butler, we could say that the female is the means 
the male has found to reproduce himself, in other words to come into the world. 
In this sense, woman is the species’ first means of transport, its very first vehicle. 
The second would be the mounting and coupling of dissimilar bodies fitted out 
for migration, the voyage in common.” Paul Virilio, Metempsychose du passager. 
May 1977. 

3. Trans. A play on words: bonne conduite means both “good conduct” and “safe 
driving.” 

4. See notably the archives of Morimond (Haute-Marne region) and Clairvaux; 
the libraries of Besamjon and Carpentras; L’ordre de Calatrava by Francis Gutton, 
1955; etc. 

5. Cf. Paul Virilio, Negative Horizon. London: Continuum, 2005- 

6. Here we see perhaps one of the profound causes of Spartan opposition to any 
form of mobility as the preservation of the Lycurgean system. 

3. The End of the Proletariat 

1. Trans. A play on the word meuble, both “furniture” and “movable.” 

2. D. Crivelli, La fin de la crise, 1932. Proto-pop culture and European culture. 

3. “Could I yet have imagined that this absolutely necessary historical evolution, 
in determined conditions, constituted a retreat of progress and manufactured men 
who were less than savages. . . Engels in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung. 

4. Letter from Charles V to ambassador Ghislain de Busbecq. 

5. “Human history is all an affair of chance.” A statement that Heidegger, on the eve 
of total war, renders less freely than it would seem: “All greatness is in assault.” 


Notes /' 1 73 



6. Cf. Paul Virilio, Popular Defense and Ecological Struggles, New York: Semio- 
text(e) Foreign Agents Series, 1986. 

4. The Consumption of Security 

1. The minister was to announce just as joyfully on November 20, 1976: “The 
Soufriere business is over!” According to the press, this “abortive eruption” had 
already cost — this was not a final figure — the sum of 200,000,000 francs by 
mid-October. 

Part IV. The State of Emergency 

1. Alfred Wegener, The Origin of Continents and Oceans, a theory of continental 
drift (fifth edition). 

2. In terms of control, the meaning of this time is a function of the temporal field 
in which perception, decision and action are involved. 

3. The missile-carrying nuclear submarine has in itself the destructive power of 
all the explosives used in the Second World War. 





174 / Speed and Politics 




Other Semiotext(e) Titles by Paul Yirilio 

Speed & Politics 

Popular Defense and Ecological Struggles 
Aesthetics of Disappearance 
Pure War with Sylvere Lotringer 
Lost Dimension 

Looking Back on the End of the World 
Politics of the Very Worst 
Crepuscular Dawn with Sylvere Lotringer 
The Accident of Art with Sylvere Lotringer